What can cause TMJ Disorder?
A joint is where two or more bones meet. There are three types of joints:
- Slightly Movable
- Freely Movable (Synovial)
Synovial joints are the most common joint in the body and can be divided into six classifications:
- Gliding – Tarsals in the heel.
- Condyloid – Carpals in the wrist.
- Saddle – Between metacarpal and carpal in the thumb.
- Hinge – Humerus, radius and ulnar in the elbow.
- Ball and Socket – Pelvis and femur in the hip.
- Pivot – Atlas and axis in the neck.
All of these contain articular cartilage, a spongy material which prevents bones from rubbing together. They also all contain Synovial fluid which helps with mobilisation of the joint and its maintenance by providing nutrients.
Moving a joint in its full range promotes blood flow, synovial fluid production and nutrient/waste regulation. This makes the joint stronger, healthier and more free to move. Knowing this makes it easier to see that not having enough movement in our lives can lead to joint degeneration and pain.
Overusing a joint can also be a problem. Repetitive movement of a joint in the same plane can wear down the cartilage over time. The surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments then stiffen, further reducing the range of motion and inhibiting efficient blood flow. This reduced blood flow makes it difficult to bring nutrients to the joint and so it becomes a challenge for the joint to repair any overuse damage. Bringing back the range of motion in the joint and loosening the surrounding muscles leads to greater flow of blood and synovial fluid, thus helping to prevent or undo this damage.
The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a synovial joint connecting the jaw to the skull and is responsible for such activities as chewing and talking. Just like any joint in the body, if the surrounding muscles become tight then so does the joint. This tightness causes the two bones to grind together. Eventually, the cartilage (the joint’s natural shock absorber) is worn down making the joint even tighter. Fluidity of movement is then lost and the joint can begin to pop when it opens and closes. Therefore we need to bring space back to the joint by loosening the surrounding muscles. This will bring more blood flow to help nourish the joint, restore range of motion and prevent further damage. This will also reduce the grinding and popping and make the jaw feel looser.
A major cause of the muscle tension in and around the jaw is from anger, frustration, stress and anxiety. This can be one of the toughest, yet rewarding, challenges to overcome when facing TMJ Disorder. Without overcoming this challenge you will continue to subconsciously tighten the jaw throughout the day and night. Even if you did succeed at loosening the jaw, the muscles around the joint will quickly become tight once again because you are still holding the negative emotions there. When working on the jaw try to pay attention to stressful situations to see if you clenching in response.Next step
This exercise will help bring release of tension in the neck and jaw. It is also a good break from daily stresses and strains.
If you have inflammation, which is true in most joint conditions, you will want to put ice or a cold wet towel on the side of your face. Applying heat, such as a hot towel, to the muscles surrounding the TMJ can help to relax and lessen the tension being placed on the joint. Apply hot or cold for around 10-15 minutes, several time a day. Some may find more benefits from cold than from hot or vice versa.
Massaging the head, face and neck will loosen the muscles surrounding the TMJ creating more space in the joint. It will also bring more blood flow and nourishment helping to rejuvenate the joint and keep it healthy.
Throughout the day you need to encourage the full range of movement back into the jaw. Such movements as the Jaw Rotations will help improve circulation to the TMJ and redevelop effective regulation of synovial fluid, which in turn will bring nourishment. Jaw rotations are great for this, but take it one step at a time so you don’t strain the tight muscles.
In today’s society the vast majority of people have lost connection with their bodies. A great example of this is taking pain killers to numb the pain and separate “us” from ‘’it.” Pain becomes an inconvenience and we find it difficult to function whilst it is there. It makes sense for us to want to stop the pain as quickly as possible so we can get on with our work and daily lives.
The problem with separating the body and mind is that over time the gap gets increased so we no longer understand what our body is trying to tell us. For example, someone is sitting for a long period of time. After 30 minutes or an hour the back starts to ache which is a clear signal to move or stretch. Instead that person continues to sit for another hour or so until they are forced to stand up through either too much pain or another task.
For self healing to be successful we need to rebuild our mind/body connection to understand what activities can cause pain and what we can do, ie exercises, to work with it instead of against it. A benefit of this renewed connection is that instead of a quick fix for pain we can make the effects longer lasting.
By keeping a journal about working with your body you can help strengthen your body awareness. It can help show you what activities in your life are causing pain such as the way you get out of bed and/or sitting for long periods of time. Through journaling you can start to focus on what you need to improve the condition and keep the pain from occurring and reoccurring. Everyone is an individual so certain exercises may not work for you. Your body will also change over the course of your program. The journal is a good way of keeping track of what is working for you and what is not.
A body journal can give you a place to deal with pain and frustrations that are being experienced. Journaling also keeps track of your successes. Even the smallest improvement is still an improvement and should be appreciated! Over time its easy to forget how far you have come. and keeping a journal can be a nice reminder of your progress.
The body directly responds to the mind. If you are anxious your body creates tension leading to strain. On the other hand you can consciously use the mind to relax the body through activities like meditation, visualization and general relaxation techniques.
- The Melissa – when relaxing, watching TV, performing house chores etc, wear The Melissa.
- Application of Hot and Cold – while watching TV, having a bath, before bed or early morning, while resting around the house.
- Self Massage – watching TV, before bed or first thing in morning, anytime you sense tension in the jaw muscles, resting on the couch.
- Stretching and Strengthening the Jaw- Listening to music, listening on the phone, in between chores, combine with afternoon or morning exercise program. anytime the jaw muscles feel tight.
- Jaw Rotations – While watching TV, lying in bed, in the bathtub, pick a time when to perform i.e first thing in the morning, before or after going to bed or meal time. work into bathroom routine ie before or after brushing teeth.
- Body Awareness – holding tension in the jaw, what movement or activity causes certain pains i.e moving jaw to the side or yawning, bring your attention to specific parts when performing routine tasks, i.e paying the bills, chopping vegetables.
- Body Journal – keep near by and add an observation when it arises, before bed i.e write out the observations of the day.
- Relaxation – Palming, meditation, napping, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, having a bath, going for a walk.
- The Melissa – During breaks, before starting and leaving work.
- Application of Hot and Cold – During breaks, while performing simple tasks, before after work, whenever there is pain.
- Self Massage – While performing simple tasks, during breaks.
- Stretching and Strengthening the Jaw – During breaks, while listening on the phone, before and after work or lunch.
- Jaw Rotations – Periodically during work day, during a break, before or after work or lunch.
- Body Awareness – clenching jaw in stressful situations, bring your attention to specific body parts when performing routine tasks, i.e answering phones, talking to boss, anything physical.
- Body Journal – Keep journal near by and make observations.
- Relaxation – Make sure you take your breaks! Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, going for a walk.
- The Melissa – Wear the Melissa walking from A to B, being a passenger.
- Application of Hot and Cold – As a passenger, before and after long journeys, take breaks on long journeys and apply.
- Self Massage – As a passenger, whilse walking, waiting for public transit.
- Stretching and Strengthening the Jaw – As a passenger, stop and stretchstrenghten periodically when walking, stretch/strenghten before, during and after journeys.
- Jaw Rotations – As a passenger. sitting at a bus stop.
- Body Awareness – Are you clenching your jaw when performing routine activities such as standing, walking and sitting?, how certain movements create certain sensations and looseness.
- Body Journal – Observe how the body responds during forms of transit, ie, sitting in certain position, length of time, walking up or down hill etc
- Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.
- The Melissa – during computer breaks.
- Application of Hot and Cold – while sitting, during computer breaks, anytime the joint feels stiff or inflamed.
- Self Massage – preforming simple tasks, during computer breaks, waiting for something to load, anytime tension is felt in the jaw muscles, before and after using computer.
- Jaw Rotations – periodically while sitting at computer, during a short break, waiting for something to download.
- Stretching and Strengthening the Jaw – During breaks, before or after using the computer.
- Body Awareness – Clenching the jaw while using the computer, Are you holding your shoulders up when typing, are you leaning towards the computer?
- Body Journal – Keep the journal close by and make observations.
- Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.