Updated: Apr 19
Some of the most active muscles in the human body are the jaw muscles. Tension in this area can come from chewing, stress, grinding and more. This can cause all kinds of muscular issues and also lead to pain from headaches and migraines. Luckily there are a lot of options to deal with this including self massage, intraoral massage, and facial cupping. However, sometimes more severe issues such as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) can occur and cause pain for reasons other than tight muscles.
What is the Temporomandibular Joint?
Normally, the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) acts as a hinge and allows for sliding motions. This connects the temporal bone of the skull and the mandible (lower jaw). Cartilage and shock absorbing disks separate the mandible and temporal bone which enables smooth movement. Each side of the jaw has its own TMJ.
What is TMJD and what are its symptoms?
TMJD comes from issues involving the joint and/or disc of the TMJ. This can lead to pain in the jaw and other symptoms including:
● Aching facial pain
● Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
● Pain and difficulty chewing
● Pain or tenderness of the jaw
● Jaw becomes “stuck” or “locked” in either the open or closed-mouth positions
● Swelling on the side of the face
● Pain in the TMJ
● Painful clicking or grinding sensation when opening or closing the mouth such as while chewing
What are the causes of TMJD?
There are many causes of TMJD including:
● The shock absorbing disk wears down or is not properly aligned
● Arthritis that damages TMJ cartilage
● Impact such as whiplash
● Constant grinding or clenching putting pressure on the joint
● Stress causing facial and jaw muscles to constantly tighten
What can you do for recovery from TMJD?
There are orthopedic and surgical options for TMJD, but there are also many non-invasive options. Intraoral massage, facial cupping, stretching, and temperature therapy can be highly beneficial. These are services a massage therapist can offer and teach you do during your self-care routine at home.
Intraoral massage is a great place to start. You can find a massage therapist who has their intraoral massage endorsement and they can manually work on the tissue, this can relax the muscles that contribute to TMJD. This may take recurring sessions but can be highly beneficial. Check out Level Up’s Intraoral Massage page to learn more about this treatment method.
Facial Cupping is a great way to engage the muscles around the TMJ, especially those that contribute to lower jaw movement. Facial cupping can decrease muscular tension, bring in blood, and stimulate lymphatic drainage in the area.
Stretching can be a fantastic solution if you have limited resources. This can be as simple as applying pressure to the overactive muscles and opening and jaw to lengthen them.
Temperature therapy is a great noninvasive way to increase the health of tissue surrounding the TMJ. You can use a hot compress to increase blood flow and loosen the muscles around the TMJ. Additionally, cold can reduce pain and help bring fluids back away from the TMJ.