Are you suffering from jaw pain that radiates to the head? Are you having toothaches without underlying tooth problems? Well, you may be suffering from TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ is a condition affecting the joint between the temples and the mandible. This joint is located just above the angle of the lower jaw below the earlobes.
TMJ is a common joint disorder affecting up to 10 million adult Americans. Symptoms may vary from jaw pain, headache, toothache with no cause, difficulty chewing and even transient locking or popping of the jaw. TMJ symptoms can go away without treatment for some, but others may require managements to deal with the symptoms. In this line, the following are the common managements to alleviate TMJ pain:
• Use of medications. For people who cannot tolerate TMJ pain, medications are usually prescribed such as:
• Analgesics- OTC analgesics can be used, but stronger painkillers can be prescribed if pain does not respond to OTC drugs.
• Muscle relaxants- TMJ pain may arise from tightness of the soft structures around the joint. Muscle relaxants help reduce the muscle spasms to relieve pain.
• Corticosteroid injections- For those suffering from significant pain, corticosteroids are directly injected to the joint for faster relief.
• Supportive therapy. Conservative and supportive therapies are also employed to help patients manage TMJ pain at home. These may include:
• Cognitive behavioral therapy- Some patients with TMJ experience triggering of pain from stress and anxiety. In this line, employing behavioral therapy such as being aware of behaviors, employing stress relieving techniques and relaxation techniques may help relieve TMJ pain. Other relaxation interventions may involve yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and guided imagery.
• Use of bite guards- Bite guards are special devices to prevent grinding of the teeth at night. Some patients with unknown cause of TMJ grind their teeth at night unknowingly contributing to TMJ disorder.
• Application of heat or cold- Cold alleviates pain by numbing the pain receptors while hot temperature helps relax the muscles around the joint. Apply cold packs followed by warm packs three times a day for 15 minutes.
• Jaw Massage- Massaging the jaw also helps relieve TMJ pain by providing tactile stimulation that helps release natural pain killers such as endorphins.
• Stretching- Physicians and dentists also teach you how to do jaw stretching to improve the flexibility of the TMJ.
Aside from these, consulting your physician for more advanced treatments such as surgery, corrective dental treatment and draining of inflammatory products from the joint may help alleviate TMJ pain permanently.
Preventive measures are also effective in avoiding the onset of TMJ pain especially if you have been experiencing it regularly. The following are the most effective preventive measures to alleviating TMJ pain:
• Avoid clenching the jaw.
• Eat soft foods.
• Avoid chewy, sticky, rough and hard foods.
• Cut your food to bite size pieces.
• Never yawn with mouth widely open.
TMJ is a common and a minor condition, but pain can significantly affect your daily activities. Employing the above managements can help you be free from pain in no time.