Updated: Jun 27
What is TMJ?
If you've been experiencing jaw pain or clicking, difficulty opening wide, pain with chewing, burning eyes, clogged feeling in the ears, or fatigue in the jaw, you can be suffering from TMJ disorder or TMD. You may also be experiencing neck pain and headaches. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull acting as a sliding hinge. In the TMJ (Tempo-mandibular joint) there is a disc that slides back and forth as you open and close your mouth. There are also muscles that move the jaw which includes the masseter, temporalis, and pterygoids.
Temporomandibular disorder (TMJD) can cause pain in the joint or muscles that control jaw movement. Causes of the disorder could be due to genetics, jaw malalignments, or injury. About 75% of our patients that come to see us in Wyckoff, NJ have not heard of TMJD until they started experiencing their symptoms. There is also a large percentage of patients who think they have TMJ disorder, and after an examination, it ends up the pain is caused by neck issues.
One question our TMJ specialist receives daily is, 'Is there a way to prevent TMJ pain?'
Here are the pointers we give to patients who have asked:
1. Stress is a big factor in TMJD causing you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth. There is also something called Tension Myoneural Syndrome which essentially means your pain is completely referred to by the brain caused by anxiety, stress, or anger...so it is important to find ways to destress! Yoga, reading a book, meditation, and going on walks are the activities our physical therapist recommends to any patients trying to distress.
2. If you have a habit of chewing gum it’s time to quit! Gum chewing can overuse and stress the muscles in your jaw. (Sidenote: gum can cause acid reflux also)
3. Increase mobility in your jaw by doing a few gentle jaw stretches and massages 1st thing in the morning and before each meal.
We have some of our favorite stretches in this Free TMJ Relief Guide - Click To Download.
4. If you feel any kind of tension in the jaw, a good rule of thumb is to refrain from ANY tough foods to 3 days. This can be enough to get symptoms to subside.
5. Interrupt prolonged sitting. Most people don't realize how much posture plays into TMJD or what appears to be TMJD. Every 20 minutes, attempt to stand up and move around, this can loosen up muscular tension on the jaw or TMJ. Watch a good postural exercise in this video.
6. Find a TMJ specialist physical therapist near you to get a complete examination.
Acute TMJ pain can be relieved in a few days to weeks, but then there is chronic TMJ which can have other long-lasting effects. Chronic TMJ is more serious than acute due to the impact it has on the tendons, muscles, and cartilage in the area. Which can lead to much more stubborn pain, nerve signal disruption, or dislocation.
Now if you weren't able to prevent TMJD from happening you might be asking 'Can TMJ affect more than my jaw?' A major nerve in the face that contributes to TMJ also supplies our neck with nerve receptors... So we often see patients who experience TMJ pain that is felt from the face to their neck and sometimes even their upper back.
A few symptoms of our Wyckoff, NJ patients' experience include:
Jaws that feel “locked”
Pain when you open your mouth wide
Swelling on the side of the face
Clicking when you chew
Uncomfortable feeling while chewing
Teeth not fitting together properly
A tired feeling in the face or facial pain
Unfortunately, TMJ, face, and neck pain cause FATIGUE! Let’s look at a few ways that you can rejuvenate from the all so draining TMJ pain: When feeling stressed the best thing to do is leave your phone away and try to relax your mind and body. Take a walk, focusing on deep breaths and getting your body moving. Did you know that taking a short walk can boost endorphins and reduce stress hormones? Short, 10-20 minute naps or meditation sessions.
Check out the video below for other TMJ pain relief tips from our TMJ specialist.
The tips in this article are general ones for the cases we have seen in our Bergen County, NJ clinic.
👉🏽If you are experiencing any TMJ pain and want TMJ pain relief, I recommend a Free 30-Min Discovery Session (virtual or in-person). Our TMJ specialist will listen to your concerns and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have. You will receive all the information you need from a physical therapist to make the BEST decision for YOUR health.
If you have further questions regarding this blog post or other tips that can help you Contact Us at Skyline Physical Therapy located in Wyckoff, NJ. or Call (201) 485-6114