By now we’re all feeling the stress of this pandemic growing. We’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions, that change with every new wave of cases. The constant news of lockdowns, new variants and economic impact can take a toll on our minds & bodies. Have you noticed it in yourself or the people around you?
May be you’ve noticed emotional changes in yourself like mood swings, bursts of anger or poor decision making. Pain is another way our bodies tells us we’re under stress. For this blog, we would like to focus how increased levels of stress can trigger jaw pain or what’s called TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint) dysfunction. Dentists, psychologists (1) and our own team of chiropractors & massage therapists have all found that stress & anxiety is linked with higher frequency of jaw pain.
More Stress = More Pain
Did you know that when you’re anxious or stressed, you clench your jaw and tense your neck & shoulders. If you do this consistently it could result in jaw pain along the side of your face and possibly into your ear or neck. Other signs you may be holding onto stress in this area are clicking and popping of the jaw, or pain when eating or yawning. Jaw pain can also lead to increased headaches, or even migraines (2).
Ways to Prevent Jaw Pain
A simple way to prevent TMJ pain is to avoid very crunchy or chewy foods such as gum, candy or apples. Your jaw muscles already get plenty of exercise between talking and eating throughout the day.
Staying well hydrated throughout the day will also help prevent muscle and joint pain in your body overall as being hydrated eases stress on the muscles.
You’ll want to engage in some relaxation and self-care exercises to help you relieve the tension you’re holding in your body. Meditation and breathing exercises can be very helpful. Using a mindfulness timer or app is a great way to create this habit. While you are working, make a mental note to relax your jaw by opening your mouth slightly to prevent clenching the jaw muscles.
3 ways to get Jaw Pain Relief
#1 Self Massage – There are self massage techniques you can use to relieve TMJ jaw pain. You’ll want to check out this self-massage video. There is also a great resource on how to perform a simple self-massage for TMJ Disorders at home.
#2 Consult with a Dentist – It’s also good to see a dentist who will be able to diagnose if you are grinding or clenching your teeth at night and can provide an appliance that will give you some relief.
#3 Get Treatment – Here at Brightpath, our clients have had good success when we combine Massage Therapy, Chiropractic and home exercise. Our Massage Therapists target to treat jaw muscles like the Masseter, Sternocleidomastoid (SCM), temporalis and more. Chiropractic helps with correcting the alignment and restoring proper movement of the TMJ.
If you’re experiencing jaw pain or other tension or stress, we hope you’ll come see us so we can help you feel better.
Written by: Dr. Kevin Ho, DC & Zoe Luc, RMT