Physical Therapy Techniques Can Help Relieve TMJ Facial Pain

Simple exercises can help you get TMJ relief

Pain in the jaw joint or face is a problem for many people every day. It can be mild and only occasional, or it can be chronic and severe enough to make it difficult to talk or even eat. The good news is that some physical therapy techniques can help bring relief to your TMJ facial pain.


Symptoms of TMJ

The TMJ symptoms that you experience can be wide-ranging. They may include:
  • Headaches

  • Pain that radiates in your face, behind your eyes, shoulders, neck, or back

  • Earaches

  • Ringing in your ears

  • Limited movement in your jaw

  • Locking of the jaw

  • Clicking or popping of the jaw

  • Dizziness

  • Teeth that no longer fit well together


Causes of TMJ Facial Pain

There are many causes of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Some of them you may not even be aware that you do. One of the major causes of TMJ pain is teeth grinding. Many people, mostly men, do this in their sleep and they are not even aware of it. Prolonged pressure on the jaw joints, which may go on for years when teeth grinding, will often cause jaw joint pain that can radiate to the face.


When people grind their teeth, there is another possible problem that may be even more severe – sleep apnea. Many people who grind their teeth also have sleep apnea and they should be tested for it. This breathing problem can be fatal because it reduces oxygen levels throughout the body. Problems it can cause include cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and more.


Other causes of jaw pain include teeth clenching, excessive gum chewing, an abscessed tooth, and an injury to the jaw.


Beneficial Physical Therapy Techniques

Starting out, you want to be sure that you aim to rest your jaw muscles through the day. Make sure that you are not grinding your teeth or clenching them. Check to make sure that you normally keep your lips closed but your teeth should not touch.


Physical therapy exercises may include:


  • The Relaxed Jaw – Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and then slowly lower your jaw, letting your jaw muscles relax.


  • Goldfish Exercises – Place one finger on your TMJ and one from the other hand on your chin. Lower your jaw about halfway and then close it again. Repeat this exercise six times as one set, and do the set six times a day.


Repeat the instructions above, but now open your mouth all the way for the same number of repetitions.


  • Adding resistance – Put your thumb on your chin and use it to resist your lower jaw as you first open it six times and hold for about five seconds, and then close your mouth.


Then grab your chin with your thumb and an index finger, open your mouth, and pull down with your hands as you close your mouth.


  • Side-to-side – Hold a small object that is about the diameter of a pencil in your mouth between your teeth. Then slowly slide your jaw from side-to-side. Once you can easily do this, increase the size of the object.


Watching Your Posture

Bad posture is also a cause of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMD. When you slouch or move your head forward to look at a computer screen, it changes the way your spine, shoulder, neck, and jaw relate to each other. This places a strain on the muscles, which can result in jaw pain.


One exercise that may help is to move your head backward slowly and at the same time lower your chin toward your chest. Hold it for about five seconds. You will feel the stretching in the back of your neck.


Additional Treatments for TMJ Pain


  • Use ice or heat and apply to face where the pain is located.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medications, such as NSAIDs

  • Reduce the amount of talking and chewing

  • Get mouth guards from your dentist to prevent teeth grinding.


Find ways to reduce stress. Problems such as grinding teeth or clenching your jaw become worse when you are stressed, angry, or anxious.


Things Not to Do with TMJ Facial Pain


Besides the fact that it is painful, your TMJ pain can be made worse by certain activities. This includes:
  • Wide yawning

  • Eating hard or chewy foods (eat soft foods instead)

  • Do not slouch when standing or sitting

  • Do not cradle your phone between your head and your neck

  • Avoid chewing gum

  • Do not bite your nails

  • Avoid clenching your teeth

  • When at a computer, place it at eye level to avoid looking up down or sideways

  • Stop smoking



If you have TMJ facial pain and are looking for TMJ treatment for pain relief, you can contact Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. He can also provide you with a diagnosis and some physical therapy techniques. A variety of solutions are available, depending on the cause. Dr. Vadivel has offices in the Carrollton, TX and Grapevine, TX areas. For a consultation with a TMJ specialist, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.

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