Self-Care for TMJ Pain
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Pain and symptoms of locking or popping/clicking noises are common at the temporomandibular joint, where your jawbone connects to your skull. TMJ treatments often begin with self-care. This involves conservative means of pain control and lifestyle modifications to avoid the activities that put pressure or strain on the muscles and soft tissues of the TMJ.
Over-the-counter pain reducers and anti-inflammatories, such as acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen, may be effective at controlling TMJ pain on a short-term basis. However, this is not a reasonable long-term solution due to the side effects these medications can have. You should consult a doctor about your TMJ symptoms and only use medications to manage them according to his or her recommendation.
Another effective way to manage pain symptoms is to apply ice or moist heat to the affected area in an alternating fashion up to four times per day. Ice can be applied wrapped in a towel for up to five minutes at a time, while moist heat can be applied for 15 to 20 minutes. Each works to relieve your symptoms in different ways. Ice helps to numb the pain and reduce the inflammation, while heat works to relax tension in the muscles.
You can keep a pain diary to track your symptoms. This can help you identify factors that make the pain worse. Once identified, these factors can then be avoided.
The cause of TMJ pain is not always clear. However, researchers believe that it has something to do with the tension of the jaw. You can help to relieve this tension by maintaining a relaxed position of your jaw during your waking hours, with your teeth apart and your tongue up. Make a conscious effort to monitor this position during the day and relax your jaw if you find it becoming tense. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help you deal with stress and prevent tension from building up in your muscles.
To help relieve TMJ pain and prevent it from coming back, there are a number of changes you can make to your day-to-day activities.
Sleep Smarter: You should be sure that you get enough sleep and try to improve its quality by avoiding stimulating activities before bed and managing your sleep environment. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your jaw, so try to maintain another position.
Improve Your Posture: When you maintain good posture, it puts less pressure on your muscles and joints. Keep your head posture balanced, forward, and relaxed.
Monitor Your Oral Habits: There may be a number of habits that you perform without thinking about it that may put pressure on the muscles and joints of your jaw. This includes shrugging your shoulders, biting your lips or cheeks, and clenching or grinding your teeth. Chewing gum or biting on objects such as pencils or fingernails can also create undue pressure. Make an effort to catch yourself at these behaviors and then stop them.
Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee, tea, and chocolate and is added artificially to sodas and energy drinks. It should be avoided as it can increase the tension of the muscles and interfere with your sleep.
Chew on Both Sides Equally: Don’t use only one side of your mouth to chew your food. Instead, alternate between sides or chew on both sides at the same time. Otherwise, you could put uneven pressure on the joints and muscles of your jaw.
TMJ disorder is not life-threatening, and symptoms may go away on their own. Our staff can evaluate your condition and work with you to develop a plan for the management/treatment of your pain. Contact us to schedule an appointment.