TMJ (temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder) is more common than you think. According to William De Vizio, DMD, more than 10 million Americans are afflicted with TMJ. It is experienced most often by women who are in their 20s or 30s, though it can affect anyone.
Bruxism, stress, and other causes of TMJ
Here are four of the most common causes of TMJ:
- Opening the jaw too wide – TMJ represents strain and possible damage to the temporomandibular joint. When the jaw is held open for an extended period, ligaments can tear, the area can become swollen, and the disc between your skull and lower jaw can become displaced.
- Bruxism – Grinding your teeth (aka bruxism), which typically takes place when an individual is sleeping, can contribute to TMJ as well. Bruxism may result in muscular soreness or tightness (discussed below), sensitivity of the teeth, and damage to ligaments.
- Bad bite – Also called malocclusion, bad bite is often a cause of TMJ. Bad bite occurs when the jaws have not properly developed, the TMJ disc has become dislocated, or extensive dental work has been performed.
- Stress & muscle tightness – Stress can generate tightness in the muscles, such as a stiff neck. The muscular tightness, in turn, contributes to TMJ pain. When the muscles are tight, the joint experiences excessive pressure, leading to immediate pain and potential long-term damage.
Simple and effective treatments for TMJ, as suggested by WebMD, include the following:
- Heat and ice – To reduce immediate pain and inflammation, a three-part strategy can be helpful. First, ice the affected area for ten minutes. Then perform stretches as directed by your physiotherapist or massage therapist. Finally, place a warm towel on your jaw and temple for five minutes.
- Soften your diet – You will experience less pain if you minimize joint aggravation. An easy way to do that is to choose primarily soft foods, such as yogurt, soup, fish, and cooked produce. You can also chop your meal into tiny pieces so that you do not have to chew your food as much.
- Keep your jaw stable – Try to avoid opening your jaw widely, since it can cause additional pain (as mentioned above). Get quality sleep to avoid yawning, and do your best to limit singing and yelling.
- Get trigger point therapy – Trigger point therapy is a condition focused massage treatment. Targeted therapy on the masseter muscle, one of the muscles that helps with chewing, can relieve pressure on the temporomandibular joint. It also can decrease the likelihood of headaches, earaches, toothaches, tinnitus, and bruxism.
At Pain Stop Clinics, we specialize in multidisciplinary treatment of pain, incorporating complementary approaches such as trigger point therapy. You can visit any of our six Arizona locations for a customized treatment plan to optimize your TMJ recovery.