May 27, 2024
Home » Stretching Techniques to Ease TMJ Pain

Can various stretches provide beneficial results for individuals experiencing TMJ pain by providing relief to the jaw?

Introduction

Many individuals use their jaws to communicate with one another, eat delicious food, and express themselves. The jaw is part of the upper extremities as it has five muscles that allow it to function when the mouth is opening or closing, chewing, and moving from side to side. When common motor functions like yawning, chewing, or speaking produce loud pops or clicks, it can become very painful and more often lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ. TMJ is a joint disorder that can affect a person’s ability to use their jaws properly and can lead to visceral-somatic disorders that can affect the upper extremities, causing them to be miserable. Luckily, many individuals can incorporate various stretches to reduce the impact of TMJ and help relax the stiff muscles around the jaw. Today’s article looks at the effects of TMJ, how various stretches can effectively reduce TMJ, and how additional non-surgical treatments can relieve TMJ pain. We discuss with certified associated medical providers who consolidate our patients’ information to assess pain-like issues associated with TMJ. We also inform and guide patients on various stretches for TMJ and ask their associated medical providers intricate questions to integrate a customized treatment plan to reduce the pain-like issues affecting their jaws. Dr. Jimenez, D.C., includes this information as an academic service. Disclaimer.

 

The Effects of TMJ

Do you feel stiffness in your jaw after clenching for an extended period? Do you hear excessive loud clicks when opening or closing your jaw? Or do you think your jaw is locking up constantly, making it difficult to open or close your mouth? When many individuals start to feel pain around their jaws excessively, many would often think that it could be tooth pain, but in actuality, it is the temporomandibular joint that is causing the issues. Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, can be developed through various causes that can impact a person’s jaw and can lead to pain and discomfort. Mechanical factors like jaw injuries, arthritis, teeth clenching, and grinding can cause excessive or unbalanced joint loading to the jaw, which can progress the development of TMJ. (Cardoneanu et al., 2022) When dealing with TMJ, pain can lead to symptoms of tenderness around the joint area of the jaw, difficulty chewing, ear pain, and stiffness.

 

 

At the same time, the effects of TMJ pain are often characterized by localized discomfort, as TMJ is a multifactorial musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorder that can be difficult to diagnose. (Alolayan et al., 2022) This is because of how many individuals chew their foods on one side, which can lead to its development. When the masseter muscles of the jaw begin to overload on the TMJ, it can initiate remodeling on the non-working side of the jaw and cause the pain to flourish over time. (Santana-Mora et al., 2013) However, when dealing with TMJ pain, many individuals can seek out various treatment options that can reduce muscular impairment and disc displacement from the jaw and help improve the mandibular range of motion. (Brighenti et al., 2023

 


The Science of Motion-Video


Why Stretching Helps With TMJ

 

When it comes to reducing TMJ pain, many individuals can seek out non-surgical treatments to reduce the overlapping pain symptoms and restore jaw function. Some of the main objectives that many pain specialists can take into account when dealing with TMJ pain are reducing reflex masticatory muscle pain and helping increase TMJ function through various treatments that can have a positive impact on the jaw. (Ferrillo et al., 2022) Some non-surgical treatments include multiple stretches to help relax the surrounding muscles and jaw and alleviate the tension and discomfort associated with TMJ. 

 

Effective Stretches For TMJ Relief

Stretching can be part of a person’s personalized treatment plan to reduce TMJ pain and its associated comorbidities. Stretching and strengthening exercises can positively affect pain while improving the range of TMJ movement and helping many individuals restore their jaw motor function (Byra et al., 2020). Below are some of the stretches that can help reduce TMJ pain and relax the jaw muscles. 

 

Relaxed Jaw Exercise

  • How to Do It: Place the tongue gently on the roof of the mouth behind the upper front teeth. This allows the teeth to come apart while relaxing the jaw muscles.
  • Benefits: This exercise helps relax the jaw and ease muscle tension.

 

Partial Goldfish Exercises

  • How to Do It: Place the tongue gently on the roof of the mouth and one finger in front of the ear where the TMJ is located. Place your middle finger on your chin. Drop your lower jaw halfway and close. Perform this exercise six times in one set.
  • Benefits: This stretch helps target the jaw’s range of motion and reduce joint stiffness.

 

Full Goldfish Exercises

  • How to Do It: Similar to the partial opening, but open your mouth fully this time.
  • Benefits: This stretch helps enhance the full range of motion and reduce joint stiffness.

 

Chin Tucks

  • How to Do It: Sitting upright in a chair, pulling your chin straight back, creating a “double chin.” Hold for three seconds, and then release.
  • Benefits: This exercise helps strengthen the neck muscles, improves posture, and reduces strain on the jaw.

 

Additional Tips To Reduce TMJ

Along with these stretches, additional tips for managing and reducing TMJ by avoiding excessive jaw movements and applying hot/cold packs to reduce any residual inflammation correlating with TMJ. When people with TMJ start incorporating non-surgical treatments and stretches to relieve the pain, it can help increase the mandibular active range of motion and provide beneficial relief. (Urbanski et al., 2021) This, in turn, allows many people with TMJ pain to be more mindful of the body and make small changes in their health and well-being.

 


References

Alolayan, A., Alsayed, S. S., Salamah, R. M., Ali, K. M., Alsousi, M., & Elsayed, S. (2022). Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders prevalence and awareness of appropriate clinical practices, among Al-Madinah community in Saudi Arabia. F1000Res, 11, 395. doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.104272.2

Brighenti, N., Battaglino, A., Sinatti, P., Abuin-Porras, V., Sanchez Romero, E. A., Pedersini, P., & Villafane, J. H. (2023). Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach in the Management of Temporomandibular Disorders: A Scoping Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 20(4). doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20042777

Byra, J., Kulesa-Mrowiecka, M., & Pihut, M. (2020). Physiotherapy in hypomobility of temporomandibular joints. Folia Med Cracov, 60(2), 123-134. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33252600

Cardoneanu, A., Macovei, L. A., Burlui, A. M., Mihai, I. R., Bratoiu, I., Rezus, II, Richter, P., Tamba, B. I., & Rezus, E. (2022). Temporomandibular Joint Osteoarthritis: Pathogenic Mechanisms Involving the Cartilage and Subchondral Bone, and Potential Therapeutic Strategies for Joint Regeneration. Int J Mol Sci, 24(1). doi.org/10.3390/ijms24010171

Ferrillo, M., Giudice, A., Marotta, N., Fortunato, F., Di Venere, D., Ammendolia, A., Fiore, P., & de Sire, A. (2022). Pain Management and Rehabilitation for Central Sensitization in Temporomandibular Disorders: A Comprehensive Review. Int J Mol Sci, 23(20). doi.org/10.3390/ijms232012164

Santana-Mora, U., Lopez-Cedrun, J., Mora, M. J., Otero, X. L., & Santana-Penin, U. (2013). Temporomandibular disorders: the habitual chewing side syndrome. PLOS ONE, 8(4), e59980. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0059980

Urbanski, P., Trybulec, B., & Pihut, M. (2021). The Application of Manual Techniques in Masticatory Muscles Relaxation as Adjunctive Therapy in the Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 18(24). doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182412970

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