If you are suffering pain from TMJ, whether it’s headaches, jaw pain, or other symptoms, you need relief.
You may have heard that TMJ exercises are a solution, that there are exercises that ease the pain.
For a lot of people, TMJ exercises are a good place to start. This can be especially true when the cause of your symptoms is unknown.
TMJ pain symptoms can vary between different people. Some experience pain that comes and goes while others experience near continuous pain. Some people have headaches or migraines. Others experience a locking, stiff jaw, or experience a popping when they open and close their mouth.
Because of the range of symptoms, there is no universal exercise for TMJ pain relief.
That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. It just means they don’t work for everyone. TMJ exercises are a good place to start you search for a treatment.
Exercises for TMJ pain relief
It’s unclear exactly how TMJ exercises may relieve pain. They’re thought to help:
- strengthen jaw muscles
- stretch the jaw
- relax the jaw
- increase jaw mobility
- reduce jaw clicking
- promote jaw healing
According to one 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Research, performing TMJ exercises increases mouth opening range more than using a mouth guard in people with TMJ disc displacement.
Types of TMJ Exercises
- Strengthening Exercises
- Stretching Exercises
- Relaxation Exercises
The temporomandibular joint is a common source of pain, which may be relieved by some simple exercises.
Strengthening exercises are best to perform between TMJ flare-ups. During times of intense pain, they can make the pain worse.
Here are two strengthening exercises: Place a thumb under your chin and push your chin downward against it. Continue opening the mouth against moderate force from your thumb, and then hold it open for 5-10 seconds.
Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can. Put your index finger between your chin and lower lip. Push inward while closing your mouth against the resistance.
TMJ pain is often the product of tension-producing stress. Simple relaxation exercises can help.
Here are two relaxation exercises: Slowly inhale, allowing your stomach rather than your chest to expand. Exhale slowly while making your exhalation last about as long as your inhalation. Repeat 5-10 times.
While sitting or lying in a comfortably supported position, tense and release tension from each muscle in your body. Begin with the feet and work upwards to the head.
This second exercise is a progressive relaxation exercise to help people become more aware of areas of tension. It may also equip them with the skills to consciously release that tension.
Stretching exercises can help with TMJ pain during a flare-up. They reduce muscle and joint tension, offering longer-term relief:
Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can, and hold for 5-10 seconds.
Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Glide your lower jaw out as far as it will go and then back in as far as it will go. Hold for 5-10 seconds in each position.
Slowly and steadily open your mouth as wide as it will comfortably open, with your tongue in a neutral position. Hold for 5-10 seconds then close your mouth. Next, open your mouth slightly and glide your lower jaw back and forth 5-10 times.
Close your mouth. With your head facing straight ahead, glance to the right with your eyes only. Extend your lower jaw to the left and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Place a thin object, such as a pencil or paintbrush, in between your front teeth. Slide your lower jaw forward so that the object rests in between your back teeth and front teeth. Hold for 20 seconds.
As the fifth exercise becomes easier, people can use wider objects to separate their front and back teeth.
Dental Health and TMJ
Caring for your mouth is just as important as doing your exercises. Brushing and flossing is something you have control over.
When you brush or floss, be careful not to open the mouth too wide, even when reaching the second and third molars.
Using a toothpaste such as Colgate® Enamel Health™ Sensitivity Relief can help restore any enamel that’s been weakened due to grinding and clenching from TMJ pain.
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying any TMJ exercises is that they shouldn’t hurt. Pain when stretching or opening your mouth is your cue to speak with the dentist or doctor.
Your dentist can examine your mouth and recommend a different course of treatment, if needed.
Dr Michael E. Sullivan is an Elmhurst, IL dentist with experience in TMJ Therapy.
To learn more about TMJ treatments available to you, schedule a consultation with Dr. Sullivan.
TMJ Resources: What Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Exercises Relieve Pain? – Healthline TMJ Exercises for Pain Relief – Plano TX Dentist David Wilhite TMJ Exercises For Pain Relief – Colgate Jaw exercises for TMJ pain – Medical News Today