The TMJ or Temporomandibular joints are an important part of your head and jaw and have a major impact on how well you are able to do simple things like talk, chew and swallow food. Even though you probably don’t think about this joint very much, it’s amazing how uncomfortable TMJD or Temporomandibular joint disorder can be if you’re afflicted by the condition. There are some exercises that you can do to effectively relieve the discomfort though. Below we’ll break down some of the most useful exercises for you to try today.
Why Does TMJD Occur?
There are several different reasons that you can start suffering from TMJD. For some patients a jaw injury is the trigger. For others arthritis or some other inflammation can lead to these troubles. Still others suffer from the disorder because of overuse. Chewing bubble gum on a daily basis is thought to be a possible contributor to developing the disorder over time. No matter what the cause is, the disorder is uncomfortable and exercises can help reduce some of that discomfort.
Why Exercises Help
Though there is no clear research that explains why TMJ exercises can help TMJD, it’s thought that the exercises are beneficial because they help relax the jaw and stretch it out while improving mobility. The exercises are also thought to improve the overall strength of jaw muscles. If you suffer from clicking or popping sounds, these exercises could help reduce those symptoms of TMJD.
Breaking Down the Exercises
Below are some of the most popular exercises to help strengthen your jaw and relieve symptoms of TMJD. Try them out and pick the ones that you like best to do on a daily basis.
Relax Your Jaw
The simplest exercise that you can do throughout the day is to simply relax your jaw muscles. Rest your tongue at the top of your mouth, allow your teeth to part slightly and just keep your jaw in this position for as long as possible. Doing so gives it a chance to relax and eases swelling and fatigue.
Tuck Your Chin
Put your shoulders back, put your chest up and tilt your head forward to put your chin right into your neck as much as you can creating a sort of double chin. This puts the jaw into a relaxed and works some key muscles. Hold each “tuck” for 3 seconds and repeat for a set of 10. Do this a few times a day and you’ll have a stronger jaw in no time.
Now it’s time to pretend you’re a fish and open and close your mouth with a fishy face. To do this exercise set your pointer finger on your chin, and the pointer of your other hand just to the side of your ear where your TMJ is. Now, put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and open your mouth as far as you can comfortably while holding the pose. Close your mouth slowly to complete a single rep. Do this six times per set, and try to work in as many as six sets throughout the day.
Resisted Opening or Closing
Resistance training is excellent for building muscle strength, and that’s true for your TMJ like any other muscle. You can do resistance training while opening or closing your mouth with a bit of pressure from your hand. Do both of these exercises three times per rep taking about 3 to 6 seconds per open or close.
To do the exercise for closing your mouth, open your mouth wide, put your hand at the top of your chin and apply light pressure while closing your mouth to create some resistance to overcome.
For opening your mouth place your hand under your jaw and apply light resistance when trying to open. These simple exercises can really help build up your TMJ muscles, just start with mild resistance and work up slowly as you train for weeks or months.
The Side-to-Side Slide
Put thin objects such as two or three tongue depressors stacked up in between your front teeth and bite down lightly. Now slide your jaw from one side to the other slowly. Do this several times and then rest your jaw. You can make the exercise more difficult by increasing the size of the object in between your teeth.
Front to Back Slide
Just like the above exercise, place a thin object such as stacked tongue depressors in between your front teeth and bite lightly. Now slide your lower jaw forward slowly so your bottom teeth are ahead of your top. Move your jaw back and repeat the process several times. Increase the thickness of the object to make the exercise more difficult.
Combine these exercises with plenty of rest for your jaw, medical mouth guards, ice and pain medication to help improve the health of your jaw and to relieve pain from TMJD. It’s an uncomfortable condition, but there are things you can do to improve your comfort over time.