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As the blossoms unfurl and the air fills with the promise of new beginnings, spring invites us to rejuvenate not just our surroundings but our physical health as well. For those among us navigating the challenges of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), this seasonal shift offers a unique opportunity to embark on a journey toward relief and well-being. TMJ, characterized by pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles controlling jaw movement, can significantly impact one’s quality of life. However, with the arrival of warmer weather, the incorporation of specific exercises and stretches, especially in the great outdoors, can offer not only TMJ pain relief but also enhance overall health.

1. Facial and Jaw Exercises for TMJ Relief

Facial and jaw exercises aim to strengthen the jaw muscles, improve mobility and relieve tension. Here are a few to start with:

-Goldfish Exercises (Partial Opening): Position your tongue against the roof of your mouth and place a finger just in front of your ear at the location of your TMJ. Use your middle or index finger to touch your chin. Lower your jaw to a halfway point before closing it again. Perform this movement six times to complete one set. Carry out this set of exercises six times each day.

-Chin Tucks: While standing or sitting, maintain a straight spine. Pull your chin straight back, creating a “double chin” to stretch the neck muscles. You’ll want to hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times.

2. Neck Stretches

Neck stretches can alleviate tension in the muscles around the jaw and neck, indirectly relieving TMJ symptoms:

-Side Neck Stretch: Sit or stand with your spine straight. Tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear toward the shoulder until you feel a stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

-Forward Neck Stretch: Gently tilt your head forward, bringing the chin toward the chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds to stretch the back of the neck.

3. Breathing Techniques

Stress can exacerbate TMJ pain, making relaxation and breathing techniques crucial for managing symptoms:

-Diaphragmatic Breathing: Find a comfortable position and place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply through your nose, ensuring your abdomen moves more than your chest. Exhale slowly through pursed lips. Practicing this for 5-10 minutes daily can help reduce stress and muscle tension.

Sidenote: Pursed lip breathing is a technique that helps people control their oxygenation, particularly those living with asthma or COPD when they experience shortness of breath.

4. Outdoor Activities for Overall Well-being

Engaging in outdoor activities not only provides the exercise needed to relieve TMJ symptoms but also boosts mental health:

-Walking or Hiking: A gentle walk or hike can help reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health and strengthen the muscles without putting too much strain on the TMJ.

-Yoga in the Park: Outdoor yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation to reduce stress, improve flexibility and strengthen muscles, including those around the jaw.

Spring Into Action

For TMJ sufferers, integrating these exercises and stretches into your daily routine can pave the way for significant relief and improved well-being. Embrace the warmer weather to not only alleviate TMJ symptoms but also enhance your overall health in the vibrant backdrop of nature. Remember, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have TMJ or other health concerns. Please give us a call if you have any TMJ questions or concerns, or to schedule a visit!