Stress and TMJ: 5 Tips for Managing Jaw Pain in the Modern World

Stress could be causing TMJ pain.

If you’ve ever experienced TMJ pain, you know how frustrating it can be. Your jaw helps you do many things, like speaking, eating, and swallowing, so it can disrupt your conversation or make you struggle to enjoy your delicious meal. Unfortunately, many TMJ symptoms are related to stress

It can be challenging to understand which remedies might bring you relief. Following these TMJ tips for managing your jaw pain, you may feel pain-free. 

What is TMJ? 

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. A joint on either side of your mouth acts like a sliding hinge to connect your jawbone and skull. A TMJ disorder can cause discomfort in this joint and the muscles that control its movement. 

What causes a person to have a TMJ disorder can be challenging to determine because it could stem from several factors. 

Some patients experiencing jaw pain have bruxism, which is when you clench and grind your teeth. However, not everyone who clenches and grinds their teeth develops a TMJ disorder. 

Aside from jaw pain, other symptoms patients experience include: 

  • Aching in and around the ear 
  • Trouble chewing
  • Stiffness in the jaw 
  • Jaw clicking or popping
  • Headache/cluster headaches
  • Toothache
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Some people even notice a change in the way their teeth fit together.   

TMJ Treatment Options 

There is a range of effective treatments to relieve your TMJ symptoms. Some pain relievers, like acetaminophen, and anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, can ease symptoms. Other patients who clench and grind may benefit from muscle relaxers. 

Other non-surgical treatments include nightguards, physical therapy, and behavioral changes. In many cases, TMJ treatment may require adding stress management techniques into your life. 

Understanding the link between stress and TMJ. 

Stress impacts many parts of your body and can be directly related to problems with your TMJ. It can cause you to unconsciously grind and clench your teeth while tightening your jaw muscles. These muscles get stimulated by the nerve that causes our flight or fight response, making it overactive. 

Eventually, this added tension in your jaw causes the joints to pull out of alignment and put unnatural pressure on the joint. 

5 ways to manage your TMJ discomfort. 

Practicing stress management is a direct way you can alleviate your TMJ symptoms. Incorporate these techniques into your daily life, and you will manage the stressors in your life. 

1. Stress Reduction Techniques  

Interest in popular stress relief methods like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing has recently increased. Plenty of research has been conducted proving that these methods are effective at reducing stress. 

Yoga may help lower cortisol levels, the hormone released when you experience stress. Incorporating these techniques into your daily routine will provide you with relief from your everyday stressors and relieve your jaw tension.

2. Ergonomic Practices

Your posture can directly impact your jaw health. When you are constantly slouched, your lower jaw sits out of alignment. This position puts stress on your muscles, leading to TMJ disorders. With many people working at computers, this has become an increasing problem over the last several decades. 

You can prevent poor work posture by following these tips: 

  • Keep computer monitors at eye level to prevent your head from tilting 
  • Keep your shoulders and back flat against the chair 
  • Place your feet flat on the ground without crossing your legs or ankles
  • Use lumbar support tools to prevent slouching 

Supporting your natural posture will maintain proper jaw alignment, and your after-work tension headaches may be a thing of the past. 

3. Jaw Exercises and Self-Massage

Sometimes, doing TMJ jaw exercises will relieve your pain and discomfort. One such exercise is called the relaxed jaw exercise. Do this by resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Allow your teeth to open slightly and relax your jaw muscles. 

When you’re experiencing jaw discomfort, a gentle self-massage may help. Rub your index finger in circles around the jawjoint for a few minutes. This motion may bring you some relief. 

You will gain the most long-term benefits by doing jaw exercises and self-massages regularly. 

4. Mindfulness and Mind-Body Connection

The mind and body are connected. A stressed mind can manifest as physical pain throughout your body, especially in your jaw. When you’re mindful, you can reduce your stress-related TMJ symptoms by becoming aware of how you feel, physically and mentally. 

One way you can do this is by taking a mindful pause. Slow down your brain and take it off autopilot. Take a few deep breaths and allow your belly to expand and contract. Consistently practicing this can alleviate some of the stress and discomfort in your jaw.  

5. Seeking Professional Care

If you have jaw discomfort, it’s best to consult a dental professional for personalized advice. A dentist can provide tailored treatment plans to help with your stress-related TMJ. Some dental offices, like Davis Family Dental Care, offer patients custom appliances like a nightguard or snore guard.  

A Modern Dentist Helping With Modern Problems 

To help combat your TMJ discomfort, seek help from a Bedford, Texas, a family dentist. Call, or visit us online to schedule your consultation at Davis Family Dental Care.