On this Pain Awareness Month, let’s focus on a too often misunderstood condition that affects up to 12 percent of people: temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), the main cause of jaw and facial pain. Since only 5 percent of people suffering from TMJ seek medical treatment, here’s a list of home remedies to alleviate the pain.
A heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve mobility and reduce pain.
Ice packs can decrease inflammation and ease pain. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it to avoid any ice burn. Do not use an ice pack for more than 15 minutes.
Pureed or blended foods allow the jaw to rest. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy and chewy foods (chewing gum included!). To prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open, do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
Short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may provide temporary relief. If necessary, your dentist or doctor can prescribe stronger pain or anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants to help ease symptoms.
Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility. Your physiotherapist can evaluate your condition and suggest appropriate exercises based on your needs. A recent study found jaw exercises bring earlier recovery of jaw function compared to splints!
Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with chronic pain. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage, and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
Sleep on your side or on your back, using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
Try to keep teeth apart. Place your tongue between your teeth if you have problems with grinding or clenching your teeth. Practice good posture and avoid resting your chin on your hand. Place a hand under your chin when you yawn. To prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open, avoid things like singing or yelling that might cause you to open your jaw too wide. Position your jaw with your teeth slightly apart as often as possible.