When it comes to your TMJ (or temporomandibular joints) connecting your jawbone to your skull, you can suffer disorders in this joint. These can leave you in pain along with the muscles controlling those jaw movements, especially if you are constantly grinding or clenching your teeth.
Pain associated with your TMJ/TMD is often temporary, and you may even be able to manage it with some good self-care and treatment done right in the comfort of your own home. It may require combining several treatments to get rid of jaw pain as you address and correct some of the underlying issues. Here are some at-home care tips that might help manage your TMJ pain without ever leaving the house!
Simple At-home TMJ Treatments
- Stick to soft foods right now to give your jaws a rest. Enjoy jaw-easing mashed potatoes, macaroni, smoothies, soups, stews, applesauce and rice pudding. Hard foods, like vegetables, should be cut into tiny pieces so you don’t overwork your joints as you chew. Stay away from sticky, chewy food like tough or chewy meat and even chewing gum for now, as they will only make your symptoms worse. No nervous nail-biting, pencil chewing, or ice chomping either.
- Stay away from coffee, tea and energy drinks, as the increased caffeine ingestion can create more tension in your jaw muscles. Stick to decaf for now and see if your jaw muscles can relax more.
- Supplements (like powdered calcium and magnesium) added to your morning juice can help relax your jaw muscles and lessen jaw tension.
- Perform low-stress jaw exercises to stretch your jaw muscles and gently massage them. Try massaging the areas around your jaw joint to relieve muscle tightness and boost blood circulation in that area. Open your mouth and lightly rub the TMJ adjacent muscles as they relax; then do the same with your mouth closed.
- Speaking of your mouth, don’t yawn widely like a lion or yell at your TV because both can place tension onto the TMJ and unduly strain your jaws.
- Use heat or cold therapy by applying cold or hot packs for 10 minutes on each side every couple of hours can help dull the nerve pain in your TMJs. Sharp pain responds best to cold packs, while a dull ache responds best to hot packs as they work by boosting blood circulation and relaxing jaw muscles.
- Practice stress management techniques at home by doing gentle yoga poses, breathing deeply, meditating or following a calming guided imagery from a video. Striving for 20-30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week helps lower your stress levels and stimulates your body’s production of nature’s painkillers, endorphins.
- Get a bite guard (stabilization splint) to protect your jaw from grinding and clenching your teeth together. These typically plastic or acrylic oral appliances are worn over the upper and lower teeth, so they don’t meet and stress the TMJ muscles. If the bite guard makes your pain feel worse or changes your bite pattern, stop wearing it.
- For a short time, over-the-counter painkillers or NSAIDs like ibuprofen can help. If they don’t, you may need to try other options such as prescription anti-inflammatory pain medicines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, or a corticosteroid injection to relieve inflammation.
When to Seek Treatment
If your TMJ pain worsens or doesn’t get better in a few weeks, it may be time to be seen and evaluated to determine the best treatment. While home therapies are great for short-term relief and can often help, other measures may be needed depending on what’s causing the issue and the severity. It is especially pertinent if your pain levels are too much for you when you open your mouth or perform simple tasks like brushing your teeth. To learn more, please give our team a call!