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Time to Stop TMJ Pain at the Source? How to Unlock Your Jaw

last updated April 24 0 comments

TMJ disorders affect one-third of adults

Millions of Americans grapple with a hidden source of discomfort: chronic jaw pain. This ache, often associated with chewing or opening your mouth wide, could be a sign of TMJ disorders (or temporomandibular joint disorders).

Prevalence of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

31%
Adults & Elderly
11%
children / adolescents

What is TMD? Understanding TMJ Disorders

causes of tmj disorders

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research lists three main classes of TMJ disorders: 1. Disorders of the joints, including disc disorders, 2. Disorders of the muscles used for chewing (masticatory muscles), 3. Headaches associated with a TMD.

TMJ disorders (TMD) is a broad term encompassing various conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This hinge joint, located on either side of your head just in front of your ears, plays a crucial role in everyday activities like chewing, talking, and yawning. When the TMJ, the surrounding muscles, or ligaments experience dysfunction, it can lead to a spectrum of uncomfortable symptoms that can significantly impact your quality of life.

While pain in the jaw is a hallmark symptom of TMJ disorders, it's important to understand that the underlying cause often goes beyond the joint itself. In many cases, TMJ dysfunction stems from musculoskeletal misalignment, or what we commonly refer to as bad posture. This misalignment can affect the entire body, not just the jaw, and can create imbalances that put undue stress on the TMJ joint and surrounding muscles. By addressing these postural imbalances, we can create a more optimal environment for the TMJ to function properly and potentially experience significant relief from TMJ pain.

What Are the Symptoms of TMD? Understanding the Discomfort

TMJ disorders can show up in various ways, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain: This is a hallmark symptom of TMJ, often described as a dull ache or tenderness in the jaw, face, or around the ear.
  • Jaw stiffness or tightness: You might experience difficulty opening your mouth wide or a feeling of tightness in the jaw muscles, making movement challenging.
  • Jaw clicking or popping: A clicking or popping sound in the jaw joint when opening or closing your mouth is a frequent occurrence with TMJ. In some cases, this may be painless, but in others, it can be accompanied by discomfort.
  • Facial pain: Pain can radiate beyond the jaw, affecting the temples, cheeks, or even behind the eyes.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly tension headaches, are a common complaint among people with TMJ.
  • Earaches: Earaches or a feeling of fullness in the ear can occur even though there's no ear infection present.
  • Locking of the jaw: In severe cases, the jaw joint can become locked in a partially open or closed position, making it difficult to speak or chew.

Living with TMJ Pain:

These symptoms can significantly disrupt daily activities. Chewing can become painful, making it difficult to enjoy meals. Limited jaw mobility can affect speech and even disrupt sleep. Furthermore, the constant discomfort, pain, and associated headaches can take a toll on overall well-being and quality of life.


What Causes TMJ Disorders? Beyond Just Clenching Your Jaw

While the exact cause of TMJ disorders can vary from person to person, several factors are known to contribute to its development. Here, we'll explore some of the most common culprits:

causes of tmd

1. Misalignment and Posture:

Many people are surprised to learn that posture can play a significant role in TMJ dysfunction. Poor posture that translates and affects the head, neck, and upper back, can create imbalances that put strain on the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Over time, postural misalignment can contribute to TMJ pain and dysfunction.

2. Clenching or Grinding Teeth (Bruxism):

Clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism) is a common factor associated with TMJ disorders. This involuntary habit can put excessive stress on the jaw joint and muscles, leading to pain and inflammation. Stress, anxiety, and certain medications can all contribute to bruxism.

3. Stress and Anxiety:

Chronic stress and anxiety can manifest in various ways, and TMJ dysfunction can be one of them. Stress can lead to muscle tension throughout the body, including the jaw muscles. Combine this psychological component with postural misalignments, and this heightened tension often leads to pain and limited jaw mobility.

4. Arthritis:

Like any other joint in the body, the TMJ can be affected by arthritis. Degenerative changes in the joint due to osteoarthritis can cause pain, inflammation, and limited movement. (Don’t let the term arthritis scare you; it simply means inflammation of the joint. Focus instead on why the inflammation is there in the first place.)

5. Jaw Injury:

A direct blow or injury to the jaw can damage the TMJ joint, ligaments, or surrounding muscles. This injury can lead to pain, stiffness, and long-term TMJ dysfunction.

It's important to note that TMJ disorders can sometimes stem from a combination of these factors. Understanding the underlying cause(s) is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan.


Anatomy and Function: Understanding the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

tmj disorders anatomy

While a deep dive into anatomy isn't necessary, understanding the basics of the TMJ joint can provide valuable insight into how misalignment can contribute to dysfunction.

The TMJ is a complex hinge joint on either side of your head, connecting your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. This joint allows for a surprising range of motion, essential for chewing, talking, and yawning. Several key components work together to enable this movement:

  • The bones: The mandible and the temporal bone of the skull form the joint itself. A disc separates these bones, acting as a cushion and facilitating smooth movement.
  • Muscles: Powerful muscles like the masseter and temporalis surround the joint, allowing you to open, close, and move your jaw sideways.
  • Ligaments and fascia: These strong bands of tissue stabilize the joint and hold the bones in place.

Misalignment and TMJ Disorders:

poor posture and spondylolisthesis

When your posture is misaligned, particularly in the head, neck, and upper back, it can significantly impact the TMJ joint and surrounding muscles. Here's how some common postural deviations can contribute to TMJ dysfunction:

  • Head Forward Posture: This posture, where the head juts forward from the neck, strains the muscles responsible for opening the mouth. The constant effort to hold the head up can lead to muscle fatigue, tightness, and pain in the jaw.
  • Cervical Flexion: Often seen with Upper Crossed Syndrome, slouching or hunching with rounded shoulders can compress the upper back and tighten the muscles that connect the spine to the head. This tightness can pull the jaw out of alignment and contribute to TMJ issues.
  • Head Tilt: A head consistently tilted to one side can cause imbalances in the jaw muscles and uneven pressure on the TMJ joint. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and difficulty chewing.

Looking Beyond the Head and Neck:

asymmetric posture

The site of the pain is rarely the source of the problem. Postural misalignment in other areas can also affect the TMJ:

  • Kyphosis (Hunchback): An excessive rounding of the upper back alters your center of gravity, leading to compensatory adjustments in the head and neck posture. This can place strain the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Scoliosis: Scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, causes imbalances throughout the body, including the head and neck. This can put uneven stress on the TMJ joint and contribute to further musculoskeletal dysfunction. Scoliosis can cause the ribcage to become uneven, which can affect the position of the shoulder blades and ultimately lead to imbalances in the head and neck posture. These imbalances can strain the jaw muscles and put uneven pressure on the TMJ joint.
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt and Asymmetries: Uneven hips or imbalances in the pelvis affect how you stand and move. These imbalances can travel up the kinetic chain, leading to postural distortions in the spine and neck, ultimately impacting the TMJ joint. The kinetic chain refers to the interconnectedness of your joints and muscles. When one part of the chain is misaligned, it can cause imbalances in other parts. For example, if one hip is higher than the other, it can tilt your pelvis and cause your spine to curve sideways. This can lead to imbalances in the head and neck posture, ultimately affecting the TMJ joint.
  • Spine Rotation: Rotation of the spine along its vertical axis can also contribute to TMJ dysfunction. As the spine twists, this rotation disrupts the alignment of the ribcage and shoulders, and like other imbalances, leads to compensatory adjustments in the head and neck posture, potentially straining the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Pelvic Tilt: A pelvic tilt refers to an anterior (forward) or posterior (backward) tilt of the pelvis. An excessive tilt in either direction can disrupt the alignment of the spine and lead to imbalances in the core muscles that support the entire body. This can affect the head and neck posture and contribute to TMJ issues.
  • Femur Disparity: An apparent or real difference in leg length due to asymmetrical leg alignment is common and may cause other problems first. However, significant leg length discrepancies alters your posture and gait. The body will try to compensate for this difference by tilting the pelvis or altering the spine curvature. These compensatory mechanisms can put undue stress on the TMJ joint and surrounding muscles.

By addressing these postural imbalances through targeted exercises, stretches, and ergonomic modifications, we can create a more optimal environment for the TMJ joint to function properly, potentially reducing pain and improving movement.

Is Your Posture Causing Pain?

Many are surprised to learn that posture significantly impacts their jaw health. Aches, pains, and clicking in the jaw (TMJ dysfunction) can often be traced back to postural imbalances. If you're struggling with TMJ issues, don't miss out on getting lasting relief! Schedule your free consultation today to learn how our posture-focused approach can help you achieve a pain-free life.

Risk Factors: Who's More Prone to TMJ Disorders?

While TMJ disorders can affect anyone, certain factors can increase your susceptibility:

  • Age: TMJ issues are more common in young adults, particularly between the ages of 20 and 40.
  • Gender: Women are diagnosed with TMJ disorders at a higher rate than men, possibly due to hormonal fluctuations.
  • Certain Occupations: Professions that require repetitive jaw movements, such as singers, musicians who play wind instruments, or dentists, may be at a slightly higher risk.
  • Genetics: In some cases, there may be a genetic predisposition to developing TMJ disorders.
  • Arthritis: People with existing arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, are more likely to experience TMJ problems.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Certain autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the TMJ joint.

The Traditional Approach: Does It Offer Lasting Relief?

how it works before and after posture

When it comes to TMJ disorders, conventional treatment options often focus on managing symptoms rather than addressing the root cause. Medication, such as pain relievers and muscle relaxants, can provide temporary relief, but they don't address the underlying dysfunction. Similarly, mouth guards or splints, while helpful in some cases, can sometimes offer limited long-term solutions.

Furthermore, some medications can come with unwanted side effects, and splints may require ongoing adjustments, creating an ongoing cycle of treatment. For many individuals seeking long-term relief and a return to pain-free function, the traditional approach can leave them feeling frustrated and searching for more natural, sustainable solutions. This is where Activ8 Posture's unique approach to TMJ disorders comes in.


Posture Alignment Therapy for TMJ Disorders: A Holistic Approach

The traditional approach to TMJ disorders, while helpful in some cases, often overlooks a crucial factor: posture. Individualized posture therapy offers a holistic approach that tackles TMJ dysfunction by addressing underlying postural imbalances.

Many people are surprised to learn that misalignment in the head, neck, and spine can significantly impact the TMJ joint. Poor posture can strain the jaw muscles and place stress on the joint itself. Over time, this misalignment can contribute to pain, inflammation, and limited jaw mobility – the hallmarks of TMJ disorders.

At Activ8 Posture, we believe that by correcting postural imbalances, we can create a more optimal environment for the TMJ joint to function properly. Our unique posture alignment therapy program utilizes various techniques to achieve this goal. These may include:

  • Myofascial release: Trigger points in the muscles may need to be released to relieve tension and improve flexibility.
  • Postural retraining: Through targeted exercises and stretches, we help retrain your body to maintain proper alignment, alleviating stress on the jaw joint (and the whole body).
  • Ergonomic adjustments: We can assess your workstation and daily habits to recommend ergonomic modifications that promote better posture throughout the day.

By addressing the root cause of TMJ dysfunction – postural imbalances – Activ8 Posture therapy can help you achieve lasting relief from jaw pain, improve jaw mobility, and experience a significant enhancement in your overall well-being.


Natural TMJ Pain Relief Exercises

Living with TMJ pain can be frustrating, but the good news is there are steps you can take to find relief, even at home! While targeted jaw exercises can be helpful, TMJ dysfunction often stems from imbalances throughout the body. This regional interdependence approach focuses on improving posture and mobility in key areas to reduce stress on the jaw joint.

Here are three posture exercises that help the main dysfunctions we see with TMD, but first, it's always a good idea to test how your jaw is doing before and then after. So, take a minute to gauge how much you're able to open your mouth or feel the amount of pain or tension. Then, after you've completed the exercises, check in again. You may need to do them a few times, but many will feel changes right away.

Doing any exercise, it's important to listen to your body. If you experience any pain during the exercises, skip it and move to the next one. Consult with a healthcare professional if unsure.

1. Triangle Pose

triangle pose exercise to the right
triangle pose exercise to the left

This pose stretches and strengthens your legs, core, and hips, while improving your balance. The wall provides support and helps you focus on proper alignment.

Instructions:

  • Starting Position: Stand with your back and heels flat against a wall. Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Turn one foot outwards: Turn your right foot out to the side so that your toes point in-line with the wall. Your left foot should remain facing forward. Aim for your right foot to be perpendicular (90 degrees) to your left foot and parallel to the wall around 3-4 inches away from it.
  • Reach to the Wall with Arms: Extend your arms out to shoulder height, pressing your palms flat against the wall with fingers spread wide.
  • Slide Hips, Maintain Squareness: Slide your hips to the left (towards your foot pointing straight out from the wall) while ensuring your glutes (buttocks) and shoulders remain pressed squarely against the wall. It's important to avoid twisting your hips or torso.
  • Lower Torso & Extend Arms: Keeping your knees extended, lower your torso down towards your right leg (with the foot turned out), reaching your right hand down the wall as far as comfortably possible. Keep your left arm extended upwards towards the ceiling, reaching through your fingertips.
  • Gaze Upward: Maintain a long neck, turn your head, and gaze up towards your top hand (left hand) on the wall.
  • Engage & Hold: Keep your quadriceps (front thighs) engaged to keep your legs straight, and press your heels firmly into the floor. Hold this position for your desired time, focusing on maintaining proper alignment and steady breathing.
  • Repeat on the Other Side: Return to the starting position by slowly pressing yourself back up through your palms and core. Switch sides and repeat the steps with your left foot turned outwards, right foot straight ahead, and your right arm reaching upwards.

Tips:

  • Keep your front knee aligned with your ankle and foot, and avoid letting it cave inwards.
  • Maintain a long spine throughout the pose by relaxing into it slowly. Don't force it.
  • Breathe deeply and evenly throughout the hold.

2. Active Cobra

active cobra posture exercise

This exercise strengthens your glute muscles, improves core stability, and stretches your chest and shoulders. The focus on the shoulder squeeze activates the upper back muscles while protecting the lower back.

Instructions:

  1. Starting Position: Lie face down on the floor or an exercise mat.
  2. Elbow and Arm Placement: Prop yourself up on your forearms, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your arms parallel to each other. Make fists with your thumbs pointing towards the ceiling.
  3. Leg Position: Spread your legs wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, pointing your toward the wall behind you.
  4. Shoulder Blades & Squeeze: Here's the key part:
    • Let Shoulder Blades Relax: Start with your shoulder blades naturally spread apart, feeling a slight stretch in your chest as you let it drop toward the floor.
    • Pull Fists Apart Squeeze Shoulders: Rotate your hands and wrists apart, letting your shoulder blades come together, feeling them move down your back towards your spine. Do not pull your elbows apart. Hold your fists apart during the exercise.
  5. Press and Release Feet: Maintain the shoulder squeeze while pressing the soles of your feet firmly together. Hold for a brief two-second count, then release the pressure slightly without letting your feet fall apart.
  6. Repeat: Continue squeezing your shoulder blades together and pressing your feet for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Tips:

  • Keep your hips pressed down towards the floor throughout the exercise.
  • Avoid arching your lower back excessively. Maintain a natural curve in your spine.
  • Breathe normally throughout the movement.

3. Wall Presses with Lumbar Roll

wall presses exercise first position
wall presses exercise second position
wall presses exercise third position
wall presses exercise fourth position

This exercise targets your upper back, shoulders, and arms while realigning your pelvis and spine balance. The lumbar roll provides added support and helps promote proper spinal alignment in order to relax the head and jaw muscles.

Instructions:

  • Starting Position: Take off your shoes and stand with your heels and back to a wall, making sure your feet are pointing straight ahead and hip-width apart.
  • Lumbar Roll Placement: Place a 2-3 inch roll or tightly rolled towel horizontally in the small of your back behind your belly button, trying to keep your butt touching the wall. You should feel the roll in your lower back, but if it is uncomfortable, find a smaller one.
  • Bring your arms out to the sides 45 degrees, so your hands are mid-stomach level. Follow the sequence by position below.
  • Position 1: Push your palms firmly into the wall, feeling your shoulder blades squeeze together. Do 10 presses, keeping your heels, hips, upper back and head on the wall.
  • Position 2: Relax your head forward, bringing your chin toward your chest. Maintain the same arm position and press your palms into the wall. Do 10 reps, keeping your neck relaxed with your head down.
  • Position 3: Lift your head back up to the starting position. Turn your palms so they face away from the wall, pressing the backs of your hands into the wall feeling for the work between your shoulder blades. Keep your fingers spread wide. Do 10 reps.
  • Position 4: Return your head to a relaxed forward position (chin to chest). Keep your palms facing away from the wall and press the backs of your hands into the wall. Do 10 reps, keeping your neck relaxed and head down.
  • Rest and repeat: After completing the 10 reps for each of the four positions, repeat the entire sequence for a second set. A third set is optional if you feel up to it.

Tips:

  • Focus on pushing through your palms or the backs of your hands, feeling the work move into your shoulders.
  • Keep your hips and upper back against the wall throughout the exercise.
  • Breathe normally throughout the movement.

Important Note: These exercises are for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you experience any pain or discomfort while performing these exercises, stop immediately and consult with a healthcare professional.

Remember, consistency is key! Performing these exercises regularly can help improve your posture, reduce muscle tension throughout your body, and ultimately alleviate TMJ pain. However, for long-term, sustainable relief, addressing the underlying postural imbalances through a comprehensive program like Activ8 Posture therapy can be highly beneficial.


Conclusion: Hope for Lasting Relief and a Smile You Can Live With

If you've been struggling with TMJ pain and limited jaw function, you don't have to settle for a life of discomfort. Our hope is that this article has shed light on the connection between posture and TMJ disorders, and how addressing these imbalances can lead to lasting relief for you.

Activ8 Posture's unique approach focuses on correcting underlying postural issues to create an environment where your TMJ joint can function optimally. By incorporating targeted therapy techniques and promoting better posture throughout your body, we can help you achieve:

  • Reduced jaw pain and inflammation
  • Improved jaw mobility and function
  • Better overall well-being and quality of life

Don't wait any longer to take control of your TMJ pain. Schedule a consultation with Activ8 Posture today! Our team of specialists will assess your individual needs and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you find lasting relief and rediscover the joy of pain-free movement.


Don't Wait!

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today!

Don't wait any longer to take control of your TMJ pain. Schedule a consultation with Activ8 Posture today! Our team of specialists will assess your individual needs and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you find lasting relief and rediscover the joy of pain-free movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

TMJ disorders (TMD) can be a frustrating condition, and here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

How do I get TMJ to go away?

Unfortunately, there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to eliminating TMJ for everyone but the connection between posture and TMJ pain is significant. With this, there are effective treatment approaches that can significantly reduce pain and improve function. These often involve a combination of strategies, such as:

  • Addressing postural imbalances: As discussed in this article, posture plays a crucial role in TMJ health. Physical therapy or posture correction techniques can help improve alignment and reduce stress on the jaw joint.
  • Oral appliance therapy: Mouth guards or splints can help stabilize the jaw joint and reduce muscle strain.
  • Stress management: Stress and anxiety can worsen TMJ symptoms. Relaxation techniques like massage or meditation can be beneficial.
  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain during flare-ups.

Why is TMJ so hard to treat?

TMJ disorders can be complex because various factors can contribute to them. The underlying cause may not always be readily apparent, making it challenging to develop a targeted treatment plan. Additionally, TMJ symptoms can mimic other conditions, which can delay proper diagnosis.

What does a TMJ flare-up feel like?

TMJ flare-ups can manifest in various ways, Here are some common symptoms:

  • Jaw pain and stiffness: This is a hallmark symptom, often described as a dull ache or tenderness in the jaw, face, or around the ear.
  • Limited jaw mobility: Difficulty opening your mouth wide or feeling a tight sensation in the jaw muscles.
  • Jaw clicking or popping: A clicking or popping sound in the jaw joint when opening or closing your mouth.
  • Facial pain: Pain radiating beyond the jaw, affecting the temples, cheeks, or even behind the eyes.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly tension headaches, are a common complaint.
  • Earaches: Earaches or a feeling of fullness in the ear, even though there's no ear infection.

How long does TMJ disease last?

The duration of TMJ symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience short-lived flare-ups that resolve on their own, while others experience chronic TMJ pain. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for managing TMJ effectively and preventing long-term issues.

Can TMJ go away on its own?

In some cases, mild TMJ symptoms may improve on their own with self-care measures like applying heat or ice packs, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding foods that require excessive chewing. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is the best medicine for TMJ flare up?

There's no single "best" medication for TMJ flare-ups. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain during flare-ups. In some cases, stronger pain relievers or muscle relaxants may be prescribed by a doctor. However, medication typically addresses symptoms and doesn't necessarily address the underlying cause of TMJ.

What are the most effective home remedies for TMJ relief?

Here are some home remedies that may help alleviate TMJ pain:

  • Apply heat or ice: Applying a warm compress or ice pack to the jaw area can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Stress can worsen TMJ symptoms. Techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension.
  • Soft diet: Opt for soft foods that require minimal chewing to reduce strain on the jaw joint.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain during flare-ups. However, consult a doctor for extended use.
  • Maintain good posture: Being mindful of your posture throughout the day can help reduce stress on the jaw joint.

Contact Activ8 Posture today to schedule your consultation and take the first step towards a life free from TMJ pain!

Important Note: These are general recommendations, and it's always best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice on managing TMJ.

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