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.
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 changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.
Weekly Featured Post
This post covers the basics of Ice-and-Stretch, a toll that is used extensively in these posts combined with Active Isolated Stretching and Yoga poses.
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