The Pains of TMJ Dysfunction
Amanda Tune, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
The last few years have been stressful for everyone. During this time, there has been an increase in jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and overall jaw dysfunction, also known as TMJ dysfunction.
Clenching and grinding can be something that people aren’t always aware of because it can occur when you are sleeping. It can cause damage to the teeth, and can also lead to headaches and migraines, as well as neck and jaw pain.
The tips below are things you can do to reduce clenching and grinding issues:
Book in with the practitioner of your choice: Massage can help alleviate muscular tension both in and around the jaw and neck. Chiropractors can help ensure the jaw joint (TMJ) is in proper alignment. Beneficial treatment can also be sought with either physiotherapists or acupuncturists.
Hydrotherapy: Applying heat to both the face and neck muscles can help reduce muscular tension. The general rule for heat is 20 minutes on and then 20 minutes off before you can reapply.
Stretching: Stretching out the neck muscles both at the sides and back of your neck for 30 seconds can help reduce muscular tension in and around the jaw. Many of those muscles attach to the jaw and are involved in jaw movement. Always be sure to stretch both sides so as not to develop compensating issues. Another helpful tip is to apply your heat before stretching so the muscles will be relaxed and receive more benefit from your stretching.
Self massage: I often show clients self massage techniques for jaw issues. Circular motions on the cheek muscle can be helpful. Putting the thumb pad inside the cheek and pressing against the pointer finger along the cheek muscles can also help relieve facial tension.
Visit the dentist: If you are clenching or grinding your teeth, the dentist may suggest a mouth guard to wear while sleeping. This prevents you from damaging your teeth and reduces the strength of clenching.
One last helpful tip is to watch your work posture. If you work at a desk and find your head is jutting foreword, this actually contributes to clenching. It puts your jaw muscles into a slight contraction when the head comes forward, so be mindful of that.