Did you know that over 15 percent of adults in the United States suffer from chronic facial pain? If you experience symptoms like aching jaws, headaches or earaches, it’s possible you may be suffering because of a disorder of your temporomandibular joints, or TMJ.
TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint.” This acronym is often used incorrectly to refer to any disorder that comes from your TM joints not working properly. Most doctors and dentists will use the abbreviation TMD, which means “temporomandibular disorder,” instead. The acronyms TMD and TMJ are usually used interchangeably by everyone else, however.
Your TM joints are located on either side of your head, and they are responsible for all of the major movements of your jaw. The joints coordinate with the muscles, ligaments and bones in your face to allow you to do things like chewing, yawning, speaking and opening your mouth wide.
Because TM joints affect every part of your face, it is important to do everything you can to keep them properly aligned and healthy.
Your body is designed to function at its best when all of your joints, bones, tendons and muscles are properly aligned. This means that any sort of poor posture can have a ripple effect on your health, ultimately leading to TMJ disorders.
Your head is intended to sit directly over your shoulders. Any deviation from this intended posture will place extra strain on your neck, spine, shoulders and jaw. This is because all of these muscles have to work much harder to hold your head upright. The human head weighs roughly eight pounds, so straining to hold it up can quickly cause pain and fatigue.
If you are living with a TMJ disorder, attempting to improve your posture is an inexpensive way to begin treatment. Proper posture will not only relieve pressure on your joints, but it can also help improve circulation and restore your airways for better breathing.
There are many simple exercises you can complete to help retrain your body for proper posture.
One helpful exercise you can do is jaw stretches. Allowing your jaw muscles to relax and contract will help to relieve a jaw that feels tightly clenched even when you are resting. To do this, experts recommend placing something comfortable like a soft block of wood or a wine cork between your teeth to force your jaw open. After this, alternate between 10 minutes of icing the sides of your face and warming them with a hot, moist towel. The ice and heat will let your muscles stretch and contract properly, improving circulation and easing tension.
Other people often find that activities such as yoga, Pilates, physical therapy and guided stretching can help make permanent improvements to their posture over time.
While TMJ disorders can be the source of a lot of pain and stress, it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to help minimize the pain and discomfort.