– Activities to avoid and change,
– Strategies for quick relief,
– Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
– Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
Activities To Avoid or Change:
Clenching during weight-lifting or heavy work should be avoided. A mouthguard can be used as a reminder when clenching is not easy to stop voluntarily. If you look at Arnold during his career, he manages to keep his jaw down by using an open mouth screaming motion when working out. Still, you can see, during his heavier times, especially in the late 70s, his jaw gets fuller but goes back down after he stops competing.
People do this quite unconsciously. I have many competitive athletes and executives who rhythmically clench during their session. When I mention it, they are usually surprised that they were doing it.
Avoid vigorous or uneven or unusual jaw activity, like crunching ice, busting popcorn kernels, or chewing on toothpicks. Taffy and excessive gum chewing are also problematic.
When this is a result of clenching during sleep, mouth guards are a great temporary solution. In the long term, they should not be needed when the TMJ is properly balanced.
For Temporary Relief:
A little gentle pressure while opening your mouth to stretch can offer great relief here. I’ve done that many times when it is bothering me.
There can be little pellet-like salivary glands in this area that will not release and will get aggravated with excessive pressure. It is not likely that you will irritate them, just don’t romp on this in an effort to press out every little bump.
If you want to be extra gentle, use the stretches below with a little ice on that bottom edge of the jaw, near the angle.
You can’t use topical vapocoolants like IcyHot here as they can aggravate the eyes.
These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.
Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:
These stretches are simple and usually offer quick relief, especially when used with ice-and-stretch.
For more complete, longer-lasting relief, precede this by stretching the upper neck with The Box. It can be hard to balance the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) when the base of the head is not properly balanced on the upper neck.
Do the whole stretch routine in the post above with ice-and-stretch. Follow up with a little extra stretching with an open mouth while using some gentle pressure on the edge of the jaw, where the green asterisks are. If the jaw is particularly thick and tight, stretch more than once a day and with more than the usually 4 reps. Stretch with more repetitions, not with stronger stretches. This process works best when it is gentle. Aggressive stretching or pressure can aggravate the trigger point.
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The first line of defense against a painful TMJ is to focus on yoga poses that better balance your head on your neck by offering stretching, and strengthening of the neck. This involves poses where you twist and/or tilt, like Warrior I. Also, poses where your head is suspended in space like planks.
This post from yogainternational.com has a number of neck balancing poses and this series of jaw-dropping poses. I feel
happier, sillier, clownier, like a little bird, better just looking at the pics. To be truthful, this series is more intense than this pic suggests. It has a fairly rigorous approach including neck stretches using a strap and exercises while supporting your neck with a roll yoga mat. It’s worth taking a look.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.
Weekly Featured Post
This post shows you how to press out the trigger points and stretch the infraspinatus muscle. It’s a small muscle on the back of the shoulder but creates a number of problems, including:
- shoulder pain when sleeping
- loss of grip strength
- upper neck pain
- pain along the inside edge of the shoulder blade
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and
will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.