The last few Articles of the Week have been about causes of headaches and a number of strategies to get relief. If you haven’t checked out the videos, go to our Youtube channel and take a look. Click here to check them out. Another common contributor to headaches is the temporomandibular joint. TMJ is the shortened version, but ‘TMJ’ is often used when there are problems with these joints.
The joint is quite complex, and in fact, the 2 joints (one on each side) and the lower jaw all function together as one unit. Each joint has a cartilage disc and is divided into 2 separate sections. These separate sections each have a joint capsule and contain joint (synovial) fluid. The joint is complex because it has to rotate and slide while the disc moves along with the lower jaw. Adding to that complexity is the fact that the TMJ is the most used joint in the body. Because of its location and connection to the upper neck, inner ear and side of the head, it’s not surprising that problems with balance, vertigo, headaches, tinnitus, upper neck pain or ear pain can occur when there are problems with the TMJ.
Tips to Protect Your TMJ
1. Chew gum less often – the repetition can cause joint inflammation
2. Cut food into smaller pieces (especially meat) – trying to bite down while your mouth is wide open can damage the joint or disc
3. Apply ice for 10-15 minutes when the joints are sore/inflamed
TMJ Exercises (3-5 repetitions each)
1. Make a fist, open your mouth slightly and keep your jaw relaxed, massage from beside your eye – arching over your ear to behind your ear
2. Make a fist, open your mouth slightly and keep your jaw relaxed, massage from beside your mouth – arching along your jaw toward your earlobe, repeat with your mouth half open
3. Hold your tongue to the top of your mouth, slowly lower your jaw – this is a good exercise for joint sliding movement
4. Using your index finger, gently push into your cheek, toward your nose just in front of your ear, slowly open your jaw to a maximum of 3/4 open, do both sides at the same time
Check out this video I made to show you exactly how to do the exercises.