- Are you someone who is suffering from jaw/TMJ pain?
- Are you tired of waking up with a sore face in the mornings from clenching or grinding at night?
- Would you like to find a natural, long-term solution to treat jaw/TMJ pain?
Why Does Stress Impact My Jaw?
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life’s challenges.
Everyone deals with stress in different ways. From juggling work and family, to life-changing events like an illness or a death, stress can weaken our bodies and affect our overall mental health.
To deal with stress, our body releases hormones. These hormones increase our heart rate and trigger our muscles to tense up and react in a “fight or flight” response. When the stressful event occurs, our brain messages our adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol.
These two hormones cause your heartbeat to rise, and sends blood to your muscles, heart, and other important organs. The reason for this, is so you can be equipped to respond and deal with the stress. When the fear subsides, your brain then messages the various systems of your body to safely return to normal.
When muscles have to deal with stress, they tense up.
And if your stress is constant, your muscles never get the chance to relax and regroup. Tension in the muscle builds and causes pain and inflammation to that muscle joint. This is often the case when we deal with chronic jaw pain.
Jaw pain can result from the tightening of your jaw muscles.
Actions like ‘bruxism’, the grinding or clenching your teeth by day, or while sleeping at night, increases pressure on your jaw joint. This then leads to secondary pain in your jaw muscles and other parts of your body. It can even travel out to your head, ears, teeth, face, and neck.
Symptoms include pain on one or both sides of your jaw, the locking, clicking, or popping of your jaw, or a limited range of motion while opening your mouth.
Levels of pain range in scale from simple aches, to severe pain. If not treated, bruxism can also lead to teeth fractures. Before you turn to pain medication for quick relief, let’s look at the different ways we can treat jaw/TMJ pain, to improve your quality of life.
What Can I Do To Treat Jaw/TMJ Pain?
Jaw pain is referred to as Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. This can affect your quality of life, mentally, socially and physically.
Due to mis-aligned or damaged joints in the jaw, it may cause your face to appear asymmetrical and affect your speech. Your teeth may also become damaged, affecting your smile. If it’s severe, you may experience the inability to chew food, causing unhealthy weight loss, or conversely, weight gain, by eating soft and processed sugary foods like fast food or ice cream.
Here are some great exercises that you can do for yourself to treat your jaw pain:
- Chin Tucks
Take a breath in, and as you breath out, push your head back over your shoulders. Let it relax, take another big breath, push back again, and really feel the opening of your occipitals when you do this, which helps relax your TMJ. As you push back, tuck the chin, relax and repeat 6 times.
- Thumb Resistance
Place your thumb underneath your jaw, then open your mouth for 4 seconds, and close your mouth for 4 seconds, with resistance. Make sure the resistance is coming both ways, on the way open, and when you are closing. Repeat up to 10 times.
- Occipital Lifts
Place your thumb knuckle behind the bone behind your ear, with your fingers pointing up on either side of your head. Lift the suboccipital and pull down on the opposite side. Do the other side and lift. This stretch lifts your range of motion, and also relieves headaches. Repeat up to 10 times.
Massaging your jaw may help you deal with stress by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle tightness. Check out our video below! If needed, you can do self massage several times a day, including when you wake up, if your face is sore or right before bed.
D.I.Y. Ways To Treat Jaw/TMJ Pain:
There are also alternative treatments that may help you deal with stress and treat jaw/TMJ pain. These include:
- applying hot or cold compress to the jaw muscles
- avoiding excess chewing by eating soft foods
- avoiding sticky foods like taffy, chewing gum and caramel
- yoga and deep breathing meditative exercises, calming activities
- head and neck stretches
- low- impact aerobic activity – like dancing, walking or swimming.
Wearing A Mouthguard
In order to deal with jaw stress, you may benefit from wearing a mouthguard, especially if your jaw tightness is causing you clench or grind your teeth in your sleep.
There are several types of mouthguards available.
If you are grinding your teeth in your sleep, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard to help reduce contact between your upper and lower teeth. This will help reduce wear and tear on the teeth. It may also help to eliminate jaw tightness and pain.
Custom made mouthguards are a preferred option, allowing for varying levels of thickness based upon the severity of your teeth grinding. They’re also more effective at reducing jaw strain and helping your jaw align naturally rather than trying over-the-counter options. However, it’s best to book in to see your dentist first.
Address Your Stress Using Kinesiology
In most cases of TMJ/jaw pain, the pain is aggravated or made worse by stress (whether it be mental or emotional). Once the TMJ is imbalanced, it could derail the balance of energy and functionality throughout your entire body.
Metaphorically speaking, when we suffer from fear, guilt, or shame, it can prevent us from speaking up and moving your jaw freely. Grinding your teeth, can also be a sign of ‘biting down on words, feelings, or emotions’ that you were pre-conditioned to never express. Whether it be from past trauma or abuse, addressing your emotional state, along with treating the symptoms, can help you regain your body’s energetic flow.
So by using kinesiology and actually looking deeper and delving into the underlying reasons why the stress is occurring, we can address the stress face-on and therefore seek to resolve the issue at the core level.
Having worked with many clients who suffer from jaw pain, I have developed a 4 week program to help my clients treat their TMJ pain specifically. In this program, I utilise the F.A.S.T. Method of Jaw Release. If you would like to find out more, click here.
What If These Methods Don’t Help?
If these methods don’t help reduce your jaw symptoms, a physical therapist can help relieve the pain and help you deal with stress. Through massage, ultrasound, manipulation, and acupuncture, physical therapy can help in:
- reducing headaches
- decreasing neck pain
- decreasing locking
- improving range of motion
However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms below, it is advisable to consult with a doctor immediately:
- severe pain in the jaw that is affected by movement or when chewing
- difficulty opening the mouth to eat or speak
- headaches that interfere with daily activities.