In your head, two remarkably intricate joints connect your lower jaw to your skull, known as temporomandibular joints or TMJ. Unfortunately, these joints can often be a source of discomfort.
The good news? TMJ issues are frequently temporary and can often be alleviated with simple at-home remedies. Let’s explore how to manage TMJ pain.
Signs of TMJ problems
To comprehend why TMJ pain occurs, it’s important to understand how your jaw functions. For instance, your temporomandibular joints act like a stable door hinge, closing your lower jaw against your upper teeth. When these components are in harmony, the risk of jaw problems decreases.
However, if your teeth frequently come into contact, problems can arise. Grinding or clenching your teeth stresses your TMJ, leading to pain. Essentially, TMJ pain often results from overuse. Apart from jaw pain, signs of TMJ issues may include:
- Popping or clicking noises in your jaw.
- Facial pain.
- Fractured or worn teeth.
- Limited or painful jaw opening.
- Tinnitus (ringing in ears).
Certain factors such as medication, alcohol use, smoking, and stress can increase the likelihood of TMJ issues. Additionally, grinding and clenching may have a genetic component.
How to alleviate TMJ pain
Thankfully, there are simple measures you can take at home to relieve TMJ symptoms. They are:
- Apply cold packs and moist heat: Cold packs can numb the joint and reduce swelling, while moist heat compresses can ease chronic TMJ pain.
- Try massage: Massaging your jaw muscles can release tension and promote neuromuscular harmony.
- Stretch your jaw: Perform gentle jaw stretches several times a day to relieve muscle tightness and pain.
- Focus on posture: Maintaining good posture can prevent jaw misalignment and reduce TMJ stress.
- Sleep on your back: Sleeping on your back maintains natural alignment, reducing strain on your TMJ.
- Limit Stress: Practice relaxation techniques and avoid activities that cause jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
- Avoid chewy foods: Steer clear of tough meats, bagels, hard fruits, nuts, and chewing gum, as they can worsen TMJ discomfort.
- Over-the-counter pain medication: Short-term use of anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can provide relief. However, consult a dentist if pain persists beyond a week or two.
When to seek professional help
If these home remedies do not alleviate your jaw pain within a few months, it’s advisable to consult a dentist or healthcare provider, especially if your jaw pain is accompanied by headaches, migraines, or dizziness.
Early diagnosis can prevent the condition from becoming chronic. Treatment options may include a night guard, physical therapy, muscle relaxers, or Botox injections to alleviate muscle contractions.