6 Exercises That Relieved My TMD/TMJ Disorder
I’ve dealt with TMJ/jaw problems for a large portion of my life. At many points, the pain was enough to keep me from sleeping for hours at a time. These exercises I describe below have helped reduce the inflammation as well as the headaches associated with the problems.
The point of these exercises is basically to strengthen the inflamed jaw. The usual cause of this problem is that the muscles around the joint are strained, which weakens the joint and sometimes damages nerves around the area.
I learned these exercises from physical therapy sessions, doctor visits, and a multitude of pamphlets. While this is all firsthand experience, please note that I’m not a medical professional. If you try one of these exercises and feel any discomfort whatsoever, consult with your doctor before continuing.
Do this one in front of a mirror; put your tongue on the roof of the mouth, rested behind your top front teeth. Open your mouth slowly, taking notice in any lateral (sideways) movement of your teeth. Once you open it to the largest you can without any strain, close it, looking for the same lateral movements.If there are any, do the exercise slower. The goal is for both of your jaw joints to have equal control over your mouth, which usually isn’t the case in TMJ disorders.
2. Joint Strength
For this exercise, use your palm and slowly push on one side of your jaw. The bottom of your hand should be pressuring your chin. Push back with your jaw, but make sure your teeth are aligned. Start off slowly (no jerky movements!) with a small amount of pressure, and if it doesn’t hurt, push a bit harder. Do both sides; the point of this is to generally increase the strength and control of the joint.
3. More joint strength
Push down on your bottom teeth with your fingers, and push up with your jaw. It’s basically the same thing as the aforementioned joint strength exercise, except it helps strengthen the vertical muscles around the TMJ. If one hand isn’t enough, use both hands – just don’t bite down!
4. Even more joint strength
Another joint-strengthening tactic is to hold your mouth slightly open and aligned. Then, with your palm, push your chin straight in (towards you). You should feel a stretch on your jaw joints. This helps in many cases where overbite is a symptom of one’s TMJ disorder.
5. Neck Muscles
This exercise is to help loosen up your neck muscles. It helps in taking a lot of the stress off the muscles in your face (the neck muscles have to work extra to compensate for all the muscle weakness around the jaw joints). Put your hands in an “X” shape on your chest, with your right hand on your left collarbone and your left hand on the right side. Then, stretch your neck backwards and to the right or left, feeling the strain (but not too much). While doing this, grip your hands on your chest without grabbing your collarbone. Hold this for about 10 seconds, and switch sides.
6. More neck muscles
Another way to stretch the neck muscles is to press your chin into your neck without bending your head downwards. It should look like you have an extra layer of “chin” behind your actual chin, and your face should be looking straight forward. Do this for 10 seconds at a time.
Do these exercises for as long as you feel comfortable, resting in between sets. Try to remember to do them 2-3 times a day, for most days of the week. If your jaw feels sore, take a day or two off, as overexerting the joints won’t help much. You should notice a decrease in facial and neck pain, as well as a reduction in TMJ-disorder-induced headaches.
Remember, I’m not a medical professional, but these exercises have helped me a lot, and I hope they help you as well.