This was a recent question asked in Ask the Expert: what can I do about TMJ pain? Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) are caused by problems with the jaw muscles or joint or the fibrous tissue connecting them. TMJ disorders are most common among women in their early 20s and between the ages of 40 and 50, however men also experience this condition.
Stress can cause TMJ because it may cause grinding of the teeth. Other factors that contribute to TMJ include jaw injuries, problems with your bite, arthritis, hormonal changes and infections.
Here are some options that may help.
1. Apply an ice pack to your jaw joint (just in front of the ear) for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Follow with a warm, moist washcloth to the same area, also for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Use your fingers to gently massage your face, shoulders and neck muscles with hard, slow, short strokes for several minutes.
4. Place your thumb on the outside of your cheek on the side that hurts, with the fingers of the same hand inside the cheek. Squeeze your cheek between your fingers and move it in a circular, massaging motion for several minutes.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 3 throughout the day as needed.
The ice numbs the pain and reduces swelling. The heat increases blood circulation to the area and relaxes tight muscles. For best results, alternate between the two – ice and then heat.
Massage further reduces muscle tension and pain. While in pain, maintain a soft food diet to allow the jaw to rest and recover.
Supplements: Chamomile and valerian are nervine herbs that relax the nervous system, soothe stress, and ease muscle tension. These are available in capsules, tinctures and teas.
Posture: Posture improvement is another natural remedy for TMJ. Make sure that your work station enables good posture. Repeatedly jutting your head forward of your shoulders can stress muscles in and around the jaw. Your head should be directly over your shoulders.
Sleeping: When sleeping, use a contoured pillow designed to keep your head and neck relaxed.