There are various ways to alleviate TMJ & jaw tightness from home. Jaw tightness is very common and can also be referred to as “TMJ”. The jaw opens and closes, moves forward and back, and side to side. Dysfunction at the “TMJ”, or Temporomandibular joint, typically presents with chronic jaw pain or facial pain likely caused by jaw muscle tightness, joint stiffness, instability, and/or nerve compression. If something has caused these joints to move out of position, you may suffer from TMJ-like symptoms. This is usually a result of jaw clenching or grinding teeth at night, but also can be caused by various other factors. Some common examples include:
- Direct Trauma via sports or non-sports event
- Joint subluxation or dislocation
- Cervical dysfunction
- Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
- Physical injury
- General wear and tear
We don’t think about the movements our joints make to get us through the day, from our knees bending as we walk to our jaws opening and closing as we chew, laugh and talk. However, even chewing or talking might result in jaw pain, earaches, neck pain, or headaches for those who have TMJ.
How Can I Improve TMJ?
Typically, those with temporomandibular joint dysfunctions benefit greatly from expert physical therapy services. PT can help ease pain, loosen stiff muscles, and increase joint mobility. Additionally, there are some simple, quick, at-home exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine to help ease the pain from wherever you are.
One simple trick you can do from anywhere is to take two fingers on each hand and press on both sides of the jaw where the muscle is felt when clenching. Because you are near many facial nerves, exercise caution when applying pressure. Make sure to only press to the point where you feel slight tenderness, not pain. Continue to hold until you no longer feel tender. For a visual, reference the video above.
Regular application of this kind of jaw joint stretch will help aid in the relaxation and release of facial muscles. Additionally, jaw exercises might ease shoulder and neck stiffness associated with TMJ.
Keep in mind, these stretches are meant to improve mobility and reduce discomfort. For more advanced TMJ conditions, we strongly advise seeking additional professional treatment from a physical therapist to avoid chronic pain and potential worsening of jaw tightness. Visit our YouTube channel for more questions and exercise tip videos.