Natural Remedies for TMJ

One of the reasons for pain in the jaw joint is a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). The condition causes pain in the bones and muscles involved in the jaw joint. But luckily there are Natural Remedies for TMJ that can help ease the pain and discomfort. Read more about Natural Home Remedies.

natural remedies for TMJ

Natural Remedies for TMJ

The condition is disturbing enough to make activities like chewing difficult. Sometimes, TMJ results in jaw locking making simple movements like opening and closing the mouth testing. I find that my TMJ is anxiety-related and tends to bring on a migraine when I don’t have it under control.

Read on to get detailed insight into the condition.

What is TMJ?

The jaw joint allows various movements; depression, elevation, left and right lateral deviation, retraction and protrusion. These movements make chewing and talking possible.

The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw bone to the skull on either side of the head. It is a hinge joint present between the articular surfaces of the mandible bone (the lower jaw bone) and the temporal bone of the skull. 

TMJ is an abbreviation for a group of disorders that affect the jaw joint. TMJD or TMD is a correct abbreviation of the condition. The disorder results in pain that affects the face. There is local tenderness at the joint that limits the movements as talking, chewing etc. 

TMJD affects women more than it affects men. A treatable condition, yet if overlooked, can result in degeneration of the joint structure. 

What causes TMJ?

The causes of TMJD remains unknown. However, some proposed factors that contribute to the condition include:

  • Trauma
  • Inflammation as arthritic changes involving the joint
  • Gradual erosion and degenerative changes of the jawbones
  • Chronic habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth resulting in the overuse of the joint elements
  • Congenital defects of the joints

Some other factors are suggested to increase the risk of TMJ. These include:

  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Muscle strain affecting the neck due to improper posture
  • Use of orthodontic braces
  • Excessive chewing on hard food items like candy 
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)

About 80% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis suffer from TMD. 

Signs and Symptoms of TMJ

The signs and symptoms of TMJ vary according to the severity of the underlying condition. Symptoms may affect the joint on one or both sides of the face.

Some of the common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles increases with movement
  • Tenderness in or near the ear, jaw or affected side of the face
  • Pain in the areas of the face or neck
  • Headaches
  • Earache and pain in the neck
  • Stiffness of the jaw muscles
  • Movements of the jaw are restricted 
  • Jaw locking affecting either or both sides 
  • A typical click or popping sound from the jaw
  • A grinding sensation while chewing
  • Mal-alignment of the upper and lower teeth (malocclusion) due to shifting in the jaw 

Treatment of TMJ

TMJ is most often treated and managed with home-based remedies.

Adopting self-care practices alleviate jaw symptoms:

  • Include soft food in your diet
  • Avoid solid foods that are tough on the jaw
  • Apply ice or cold compress to the outside of the affected jaw (not more than fifteen minutes per hour). Do not apply ice directly to the skin. 
  • Heat compress in case of swelling. Make sure no apparent injury is present. 
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety to ward off coping behaviors, for example, chewing candy
  • Avoid nail or lower lip biting
  • Limit movement involving jaws like yawning, chewing gum or singing
  • Adopt rehabilitative exercises to improve the flexibility of the jaw muscles

Your doctor may prescribe some of the following:

  • Muscle relaxants (Valium)
  • Corticosteroid injections to ease away swelling and inflammation in severe cases
  • Mouthguard or stabilization splints to prevent teeth grinding
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy to alleviate stress

Some newer therapies include:

  • Botox injections to relax the jaw muscles
  • Shortwave diathermy laser treatment

Your doctor may very rarely suggest intensive surgery (if required) that help correct the underlying cause. These may include:

  • Corrective dental surgery to align the teeth and improve your bite 
  • Arthrocentesis (removal of fluid and debris from the joint)
  • Joint replacement surgery

A Mouth Guard for TMJ

A mouth guard called a splint is usually prescribed to manage TMJ. These splints are customized for every patient and are made of hard or soft acrylic. I had one of these made by my dentist and it was great while I had it – until the puppy got it and chewed it! I would definitely do this again.

Mouthguards act as a preventive measure to cut back on teeth grinding. They also function to correct the jaw alignment by gently holding the lower jaw bone (mandible) in a forward position. Alignment helps to reduce the strain on the jaw bone and surrounding muscles.

Mouthguards or splints may have to be worn for 24-hours, and the treatment may last for months or years depending on the severity of the condition. 

Massage for TMJ

Massage helps to relax the muscles, improves muscle strength, treats pain and reduces tissue scar formation. 

Besides the local benefits, massage also helps ease stress and anxiety by removing the stress hormones that are released due to injury or persistent pain. 

A jaw massage also alleviates pain by disturbing the pain signals sent from the muscle receptors of the jaw to the brain:

  • Improving blood circulation 
  • Enhancing removal of the tissue waste
  • Improving lymphatic drainage
  • Increasing the local temperature 

Improved circulation enhances the nutrient supply of the area, thereby enhancing the repair, recovery and healing processes. 

Increased temperature helps loosen the fascia, a thin layer of connective tissue underlying the skin. The restriction is reduced, and the range of muscle movement increases. 

Different massage techniques are used to treat TMJ.

  • Friction application
  • Trigger pointing
  • Acupressure
  • Skin rolling

Soft tissue massage is usually done at the jaw. Friction uses fingers and thumb to break down collagen and scar fibers that form post-injury. It helps to relax the muscles. 

A jaw massage also involves applying pressure upon the trigger points. It helps break down knots in muscle fibers and reduce muscle tightness. 

Acupressure also utilizes fingertips or thumbs to apply pressure on specific points. These particular points are areas where tension builds up, causing knots in the muscles to be formed. These muscular knots are painful and restrict movement, as happens in TMJ.  Acupressure softens these muscular knots and improves the painful condition. 

Skin rolling for jaw massage uses the fingers and thumbs when skin is picked up and rolled between the two. It helps to stretch and loosen muscle, fascia and tissue. This results in muscles that are less tight and more flexible and elastic. The overall benefit is the alleviation of the pain associated with TMJ. 

Massage for TMJ can also be done using various essential oils with proven benefits for muscle relaxation. 

Rehabilitative exercises

TMJ can become chronic with recurrences. Active rehabilitation helps to;

  • Strengthen the jaw muscles
  • Stretch and relax the jaw
  • Increase jaw flexibility and mobility
  • Promote healing and repair

According to a study, TMJ exercises are more effective at increasing mouth flexibility than using a mouthguard in cases of TMJ disc displacement.

Many jaw exercises help in this regard. Here are some of the easy ones to carry out by yourself.

  • Relaxed jaw exercise

As the name implies, this exercise is all about relaxing. Place your tongue behind your upper teeth. Relax your jaw so that the upper and lower rows of teeth come apart. You do not have to open your mouth for it.

  • Goldfish exercise 

Touch the roof of the mouth with your tongue and keep it there. Place your index finger on the temporomandibular joint in front of your ear on the affected side. 

Place the index finger of the other hand on your chin. 

Now drop your jaw as if opening your mouth but take it only halfway. You should be able to feel a mild stretch in your temple. Stop if you feel any pain. 

You can do this exercise by opening the mouth full as TMJ starts to recover. 

  • Chin tuck

Sit with your shoulders back and chest up.  Now pull your chin back in to create a double chin. , Hold it till the count of five and release. Repeat. 

  • Resisted opening of the mouth

Open your mouth against resistance. The resistance will be applied by your thumb being placed under your chin. Perform this exercise slowly and gently. 

  • Resisted closing of the mouth

Grab your chin with the index finger and thumb of one hand. Apply gentle pressure and try to close the mouth against this resistance. 

  • Tongue up

Slowly open and close your mouth with your tongue touching the roof of your mouth.  

  • Side-to-side jaw movement

Place some object like a straw between your front teeth. Slowly move your jaw from side to side. 

  • Forward jaw movement

Place an object between your front teeth and move your lower jaw forward so that your lower teeth row comes in front of the top row. 

Acupuncture for TMJ

Acupuncture is proven to help alleviate the pain of TMJ. Studies have also demonstrated acupuncture efficacy as regards muscle relaxation associated with TMJ. Besides the physical benefits, acupuncture helps create a mental and emotional balance, a much-needed remedy for such patients. 

A study concluded the benefits of acup8uncture in a chronic case of TMJ where the medications had failed to manage the condition. 

Take home message

TMJ is a debilitating yet treatable condition. Lifestyle modifications, active rehabilitation and natural therapies as acupuncture and massage play a significant role in treating the condition. 

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