- Reduce your stress and anxiety. A number of TMJ pain sufferers clench their jaw due to stress and anxiety. If this may be the case with your jaw pain, you may wish to reevaluate your life and find the root of your stress. Perhaps your pain is a sign that you need to find a better work/life balance, rest more, or seek treatment for anxiety. It is important to note that some medications used to treat depression or anxiety my make facial pain worse.
- Stop chewing gum. In some cases, TMJ issues are simply the results of jaw overuse. As a general rule, pain in the TMJ or face is an indication you should rest all of the associated muscles as much as possible. You may find that your pain fades or completely disappears when you stop chewing gum, eating hard foods, or eating crunchy foods.
- Start stretching your jaw regularly. Don't underestimate the power of simple physical therapy. Regularly stretching your jaw in the morning and evening can help keep you healthy and pain-free. Speak to your doctor about appropriate stretches for your mouth and jaw.
- Eat softer, smaller pieces of food. In addition to avoiding gum, you may wish to watch what you eat and how you eat. Eating corn on the cob and large pieces of steak can increase TMJ pain, while eating small bites of soft foods, like mashed potatoes or soup, can give your jaw needed rest.
- Don't stress your head and neck muscles. Your jaw pain could be caused when other nearby parts of your body are stressed, such as your head and neck. Pay attention to whether stress to your neck is often paired with your TMJ disorder or whether any of your daily activities adversely affect your TMJ pain.
- Confront your tooth grinding and jaw clenching. A significant number of TMJ pain patients find that their health issues are caused by tooth grinding and jaw clenching. If you believe that your TMJ disorder is related to grinding or clenching, you can take steps to control that issue. Your doctor or dentist can provide you with a custom mouth guard that will protect your jaw and teeth at night while you sleep. Use of store bought mouth guards is not recommended as the inappropriate design may make symptoms worse rather than better.
Temporomandibular joint pain can be excruciating – and it can stop you from fully enjoying your life, from eating the foods you love, to smiling, to getting the sleep you need. However, the solution to your chronic pain may not be medication or surgery. In fact, many people who suffer from TMJ pain can find relief through simple lifestyle changes. Here are six places to start: