Understand Your TMJ

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The DOs and DON’Ts

THOMAS COTTER, DC, DACRB

TMJ is another great mystifier. Nearly 1/3 of us will experience TMJ symptoms. The problem then is figuring out what to do about it and who to go to to get it fixed. Some go to their dentist, MD, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc. All of those are a good place to start for general symptoms. If they can’t help you they will send you to someone like us. We’ve done extensive, additional training to better understand the TMJ and how it can become dysfunctional and painful. Between some easy treatments here and some take home exercises, we end up being quite successful at helping people take control of their TMJ pain.

DOs

  • DO: Use the “Resting Position.” Lips together, teeth apart, tongue touching the back of your top teeth. This will relax the muscles of the jaw.
  • DO: Avoid the movements that hurt. Constant aggravation will increase inflammation and sensitize the area
  • DO: Lightly press on the sore spots in your cheeks. Do this for 1-2 minutes. This will decrease your pain and relax the muscles.
  • DO: Pay attention to if you’re clenching. Most people we ask if they clench say no until they start paying attention. Wear a rubberband and every time you look at the rubber band, ask yourself if you are clenching.
  • DO: Remain Positive. It can sound cheesy, but remaining positive and optimistic shortens healing times.

Try the resting position:

DON’Ts

  • DON’T: Constantly chew gum. Try a breath mint instead. Chewing for hours on end would be the same as doing arm curls for hours on end. The muscles would eventually get quite upset.
  • DON’T: Don’t clench your teeth. This will upset one of the chewing muscles, decrease your mouth opening, and mess with the joint itself.
  • DON’T: Try to pop it or do extreme random motions. Some people try to pop their jaw to make it feel better or move it around in odd movements trying to get it to relax. This can worsen the problem.
  • DON’T: Dwell on the pain or think it will never get better. This can cause the brain to exaggerate the pain, causing you to avoid moving and prolonging the healing time.