The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), or jaw joint, is often overlooked as the source of pain. However it is used throughout the day, anytime we open our mouth to talk, chew, or yawn. The joint is built to tolerate this type and amount of motion. Yet, we often put extra strain and pressure on this joint. This can include things such as biting our nails, clenching at night and resting our chin on our hand. When we overuse the jaw, this results in pain in the jaw and face, increased ear pressure, and headaches.
What can I do to relieve my pain?
There are many simple things that can be done to relive the pain we feel in the jaw. If you notice that your face is slightly swollen, try using an ice pack for a few minutes to reduce the swelling. If you do not have any swelling, but feel a lot of tightness in the face, using heat on the face and neck can help improve your flexibility. Try some gentle neck stretches to improve your range of motion. Becoming more aware of your posture helps to prevent putting extra pressure on your jaw and neck. Makes sure you are sitting up tall and not slouching forward.
What do I do if my pain doesn’t go away?
At this point, it is time for Physical Therapy. In these sessions, the cause of your jaw pain, neck tightness and ear pressure will be determined. Specific exercises to strengthen and stabilize the jaw, and stretches to improve flexibility will be provided. In addition, massages to the muscles of the face and neck will help loosen the soft tissues around the joint. Gentle mobilizations will be performed to make sure the jaw is moving correctly and poor habits contributing to the cause of pain will be discussed. With Physical Therapy, people find that they are in less day to day pain and are better at managing their condition.