April is recognized as Stress Awareness Month. Stress is an inevitable part of life, so it is essential to understand the negative impacts it can have on your overall health. Stress affects your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and it can manifest itself in various ways, including harming your temporomandibular joints (or TMJs).
The temporomandibular joint is located on both sides of your head and connects the jawbone to the skull. These vital joints are responsible for the smooth movement of your jaw, allowing you to talk, chew and yawn with ease.
A TMJ disorder is a common condition characterized by lingering pain and discomfort in your jaw joint and the muscles that control your jaw’s movement. Stress is one of the leading causes of TMJ disorders in most people!
How Stress Affects Your TMJs
Stress can cause you to clench your jaws or grind your teeth, often without you even realizing you are doing it. This can put excess pressure on your TMJs, leading to inflammation and pain. The constant tension in your jaw muscles can also cause headaches, earaches and difficulty chewing. Stress typically magnifies existing TMJ disorder symptoms, making the condition more severe and challenging to manage.
Fact: In addition to causing physical symptoms, stress can also impact your mental health.
Chronic stress can actually lead to anxiety and depression, which can, in turn, worsen TMJ disorder symptoms. Both anxiety and stress can cause you to reflexively tense your jaw muscles and clench your teeth subconsciously, leading to further TMJ pain and discomfort.
Preventing & Managing Stress
Fortunately, you really do have options when looking to better manage your stress so you can avoid its impact on your TMJ health. One effective method you can try right away is to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation. These calming techniques often diminish muscle tension while boosting relaxation, effectively easing your TMJ pain and discomfort.
Another way to manage stress is to identify and address the source of the stress factors in your life. You might want to make some simple lifestyle alterations, like cutting down on your work hours if possible, delegating tasks, or even trying out therapy to help you better manage your stress and anxiety. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, spending time in nature, or participating in hobbies can also help manage uncomfortable stress levels.
Additionally, avoiding behaviors that exacerbate your TMJ disorder, such as chewing gum, eating hard, tough, or chewy foods and constantly clenching your jaw, can help prevent further damage to your TMJs. You can also try applying a warm compress to the affected area and practicing gentle jaw exercises to help bring some relief to your TMJs and promote healing instead.
We Can Help
As you can see, unmanaged stress is an ongoing concern that can have serious consequences on your overall health, including your TMJ health. It really is crucial to recognize the signs of stress so you can take active steps to manage it effectively.
We encourage you to prioritize stress management, so you can improve your overall health and reduce the negative impact of stress on your TMJ. If you would like help evaluating your jaw health and better manage your TMJs, please give our dedicated team a call today!