Pain and tenderness along the jaw. Aching facial pain. Discomfort around your ears. Trouble chewing food without pain. These are all uncomfortable symptoms that can get in the way of enjoying everyday life. These are also all uncomfortable indicators of a TMJ disorder. 

Over 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorders of all kinds. These disorders can get in the way of enjoying meals out and even regular conversations with those close to you. They can feel incredibly controlling. 

If you’re suffering from jaw pain related to the TMJ joint, the good news is that most TMJ disorders are completely treatable with conservative care options. Given the right information and approach, many people are able to overcome these disorders with directed at-home care. 

What Causes a TMJ Disorder?

Though the term “TMJ” is thrown around loosely, that acronym is actually representative of the temporomandibular joint. We all have one of these joints on either side of our jaws. Their job? They connect our jawbones to our skull. Undoubtedly an important task!

When people refer to “TMJ” is an issue, they are referring to some kind of disorder of this joint. Some TMJ disorders can be caused by a disk shifting out of alignment, by direct force to the area, or from clenching or grinding their teeth. It should be noted that not all people who grind their teeth develop a TMJ disorder, however. The upside is that most of these disorders can be resolved over the course of several weeks with conservative care. 

However, TMJ disorders can be a bit tricky as it’s often difficult to deduce the exact cause of the dysfunction around these joints. One thing is certain: the symptoms of facial pain, tenderness, and difficulty chewing often transcend individual diagnoses. 

If you’re experiencing constant jaw pain that just won’t go away, or is having trouble completely opening or closing your mouth, it’s important to seek medical assistance. A medical provider can help you determine what’s really going on and begin to create a plan for healing that’s best suited for your specific needs.

Conservative Care Options For Jaw Pain

Though you should always seek medical advice for any jaw pain that seems out of the ordinary, there are several great at-home treatment options. Many of these can be implemented alongside a plan that you may construct with a medical professional to help the healing process along. These are all aimed at helping your TMJ joints calm down and even rest a bit. 

Soft Diet

This is pretty much as it sounds – gives your jaw a break from chewing through hard or tough foods! To follow a “soft diet,” try drinking more smoothies or blended drinks and take food in with smaller bites. Be sure to avoid extra crunchy foods and taking big bites— in other words, don’t go for eating activities such as eating an apple off the core. The mouth extension that it takes could put undue stress on your TMJ and set back your healing time.

Moist Heat Packs

Try running a washcloth under warm to hot water and holding it against your joint for relief. Of course – be careful with the temperature of the water. You don’t want to burn your jaw! You can apply these packs in 10-15 minute increments.

Ice Packs

Many people experience relief from alternating hot and cold. Try also applying an ice pack to the tender area in 10-15 minute increments. Be sure to wrap it in a towel first, however, to protect the skin on your face. 

Relaxation Techniques

The general tightness around the TMJ that comes with disorders can feel difficult to escape. Some have actually found significant relief from working relaxation techniques into their routine. Set some time aside to try rounds of deep breathing and visualization. Or, you can take things up a notch and head to a yoga class, where you can be guided through full-body movement, breathing, and meditation. 

In addition to these at-home care options, you should also avoid chewing gum, and be more mindful of accidentally clenching your teeth. That last one can be more difficult, as the sensation of pain and discomfort can often cue clenching down. Make a mental note to be more aware of how you are holding your jaw to prevent this from becoming the norm. 

Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy For Jaw Pain – Really!

Many people who suffer from jaw pain and TMJ benefit from chiropractic care and physical therapy. Adjustments of the spine, head, and neck can help to realign the body and provide relief to your jaw and facial regions. Believe it or not, these gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow actual healing to take place. Chiropractic care can help alleviate some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of TMJ disorders while setting your body up best to come back to full, pain-free function. Physical therapy helps restore and realign jaw movement.

By working professional care into your rehabilitation routine, you could cut down on your pain, healing time and increase your overall quality of life. If you’re struggling with TMJ or consistent jaw pain from grinding your teeth, we can help. Schedule your appointment online or call (480) 787-0469.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.