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Natural Ways to Ease TMJ Pain in the Jaw

The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in the jaw and can easily become misaligned. TMJ syndrome involves inflammation and tightness in this joint, which can cause the jaw to get “stuck” or create a clicking sound when opening the mouth. As you might expect, this condition is very painful and frustrating, especially when you don’t understand what caused it or how to make it go away.

Here is some information about TMJ syndrome and how to ease away the pain naturally and effectively.

Photo credit: Dennis van Zuijlekom via Flickr

Causes and Symptoms of TMJ

There are many different things that can cause TMJ, including an injury to the jaw during an accident or internal trauma, such as excessive gum chewing or teeth grinding. Interestingly, TMJ can also be caused by stress and anxiety. People who suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may be more prone to developing TMJ. Nutritional deficiencies of calcium and magnesium may also lead an individual to develop this painful condition.

Foods to Eat & Avoid with TMJ

Chewing, talking, and even sleeping are all much more difficult when you have TMJ, but certain foods can help fight the inflammation and restore essential minerals to the body to facilitate natural healing. You’ll want to stick with easy-to-chew foods, like soups and smoothies on particularly painful days. It is also recommended to eat several small meals throughout the day, rather than just a couple large ones, to keep the jaw active and stabilize blood sugar.

Wild-caught fish, such as salmon, are packed with omega-3s to fight inflammation. Foods that are rich in magnesium help relieve muscle tension, so add more spinach, yogurt, and black beans into your diet too. Meanwhile, chewy caramels, sugar, caffeine, and tough cuts of meat should be avoided when you have TMJ.

Jaw Exercises to Try

In addition to adjusting your diet, jaw exercises may help to alleviate TMJ pain and get the jaw back to normal levels of functioning. For example, try opening your mouth as wide as possible without causing pain. Then move your jaw left and right and hold on each side for five or 10 seconds. It also helps to intentionally yawn and move your chin up, down, and side-to-side with your mouth closed.

Since TMJ is often caused by stress and made worse by it, relaxation exercises are often beneficial too. Try breathing deeply while lying flat on your back or bending the neck and head backwards while slowly exhaling with the mouth open in a relaxed manner.

Photo credit: Rich Moore via Flickr

Massage for TMJ

Massage is also often recommended for TMJ patients because of massage’s power to relax the entire body. Kneading massage may help when gentle pressure is applied to the corner of the mouth and along the jaw, back towards the ear. You may also want to try friction massage on the mandible muscle on the lower portion of the jaw.

Stretching massage can be done by applying the thumbs just above the mandible muscles and slowly stretching the muscles away from the upper jaw. Since these areas are especially sensitive in TMJ patients, massage is best left to experienced professionals.

Natural Remedies for TMJ

There are lots of other natural remedies that you can try to alleviate your TMJ pain and discomfort without the use of pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures. Magnesium, calcium, B-complex vitamins, and MSM are supplements commonly recommended to TMJ patients for their relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects. Essential oils, like peppermint and lavender oil, may also help relieve pain and inflammation when rubbed onto the jaw bones and muscles. Herbal remedies commonly recommended for TMJ include rhus toxicodendron to loosen a stiff jaw, kava to relax the nervous system, and valerian officinalis to relieve muscle tension.

You may also want to apply a heating pad to relax stiff jaw muscles or cold packs to relieve acute jaw pain. If your symptoms don’t get better after trying these home remedies, it may be time to call a doctor to discuss the probable cause of your TMJ and other ways to alleviate the pain.

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