5 Strategies for Reducing Jaw Pain & Treating TMJ Disorders

Tight, sore, and achy muscles are prevalent problems in our society. We often push ourselves to the limit in our jobs, in our family life, and in our free time. Chronic stress and fatigue are the most common causes of sore muscles, but sometimes other factors are in play. If you experience chronic pain in your jaw, face, neck, and shoulders, there may be another culprit at work. Severe pain in these areas, especially when first waking up in the morning, might result from a temporomandibular joint disorder. 

What is TMJ?

TMJ is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is the joint that connects the mandible (jawbone) to the temporal bone (skull). It’s a flexible and complex joint that gives us the ability to speak, chew, and yawn. You can think of your TMJ as a hinge that moves every time you open or close your mouth or rotate your jaw side-to-side. Because we use our TMJ continuously, every day, when we injure the joint, the pain and discomfort are difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. Temporomandibular joint disorders are often referred to as TMJ disorders or simply TMD. 

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders are distinct. You might feel jaw pain or tenderness in the areas around your ears. You might experience tight and sore muscles around your jaw, making jaw movement uncomfortable. Other symptoms of TMJ disorders can include clicking, popping, or crunching sounds as you eat, yawn, or talk. TMJ pain can also cause headaches, migraines, and neck pain. If you experience any combination of these symptoms, we recommend telling your dentist and doctor before making an appointment for a TMJ massage. It’s important to have a diagnosis from your health professional so we can tailor your massage treatment to your symptoms. 

What Causes TMJ Disorders?

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) links TMJ disorders with joint injuries and joint diseases such as arthritis. It’s also known that bruxism, the clenching or grinding of the teeth, makes the symptoms of TMJ disorders worse. This is often something that occurs during sleep, so you may not know if you have bruxism until you begin to feel jaw pain or other symptoms. The CDA notes that stress is often a factor that can add to the severity of TMJ symptoms. If you have arthritis and are suffering from pain in your jaw joint and jaw muscles, you might also be susceptible to TMJ disorders.  

How to Treat TMJ and TMJ Symptoms

Fortunately for most people, TMJ disorders do not last forever, but they can reoccur when not treated properly. Now that we know about the common causes of TMJ disorders, let’s discuss the different treatment options.

Dentist-Approved TMJ Mouth Guards

The first step is to let your dentist know about your pain. Once they diagnose your symptoms as TMJ disorder, they’ll likely recommend a custom-made mouth guard for you to wear at night. These specialized guards are also called occlusal splints. The splints are made of clear plastic and fit over the biting surface of one set of teeth (upper or lower). When you clench your teeth while sleeping, you’ll bite down against the plastic instead of your teeth. Biting against the splint is proven to help your jaw joint and mouth muscles relax, rather than staying tight while you sleep. 

Relaxation Techniques

We know that stress adds to the severity of symptoms associated with TMJ disorders. To alleviate your stress and your symptoms, you can practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation. Living a healthy lifestyle and minimizing stressors can also help. Treating the root cause of your stress is an important first step in relieving tension and urges to clench your teeth while you sleep, and can also alleviate joint and muscle pain in other areas of your body. 

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an incredibly effective treatment that helps release the muscle pain in your jaw, neck, and shoulders that are often associated with TMJ disorders. An appointment with a registered massage therapist can both loosen up your muscles and promote deep relaxation to combat stress, leading to a reduction in immediate pain, and often, a reduction in long-term symptoms.

Massage Techniques for TMJ

At Urban Massage & Wellness, we offer multiple treatments that can specifically help alleviate pain and stiffness associated with TMJ disorders. Treatments include myofascial release therapy, Rapid Neurofascial Reset, Manual Osteopathy and Acupuncture. *Some treatments may include intra-oral work. Your therapist may also give you exercises to do at home in between treatments.

Myofascial Release 

Myofascial release therapy focuses on the myofascial tissue that connects the muscles in our bodies. If you’re experiencing muscle tension or pain in your face, jaw, neck, or shoulders from TMJ disorder, our massage therapists will tailor their technique to focus on those areas and the surrounding muscles. The masseter muscle in your jaw that works in tandem with your TMJ is often very tense from teeth clenching. Our massage therapists will take special care to massage this area to provide maximum relief.

Acupuncture

Another effective treatment option for symptoms of TMJ disorders is acupuncture. The time-tested technique of using acupuncture needles on targeted body points has helped relieve tension and body pain for centuries. The needles we use on the face are smaller and thinner than the needles we use on larger muscles in the body. Facial needles are specifically designed to treat pain in the face, jaw, and neck. We’ll begin by asking you where the pain is most intense so we can learn where the tension is stored in the jaw muscles. Then, our acupuncture specialists will tailor your treatment to target the areas that cause you the most discomfort.

TMJ Massage and Acupuncture in St.Albert, Alberta

Of all the muscles in your body, pain and tension in your neck and jaw can be among the most disruptive. Pain in those areas can affect your ability to concentrate, cause headaches and migraines, affect your mobility and eating habits, and lead to stiffness in surrounding areas such as your shoulders and back. At Urban Massage & Wellness, our professional massage therapists are skilled at treating the symptoms of TMJ disorders. Whether you’re booking an appointment for manual osteopathy, myofascial release, acupuncture, or relaxation massage, you’ll leave our clinic feeling energized and refreshed. Contact us today to set up your appointment for TMJ treatment. 

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