Behind low back pain and neck pain, jaw pain is the third most common muscuoloskeletal pain presentation in the United States. An estimated 75% of the U.S. population has experienced one or more signs of TMJ Disorder. Despite these stats, pain from TMJ is rarely treated conservatively despite there being very effective interventions to reduce both clicking and jaw pain (dry needling, spinal manipulation, intra-oral massage). More times than not, temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) is also directly correlated with having neck pain and/or headaches which can also be very well managed in physical therapy. In this article, we’ll share five of our favorite TMJ exercises for pain relief.
The cause of jaw pain is usually multifactorial (trigger points in the neck or jaw muscles, trauma, stress induced, neck dysfunction, etc.). What we’ve found clinically, is that there many treatment options can dramatically reduce jaw pain from TMJ and improve jaw movement that most patients respond very favorably to. Once jaw pain and jaw clicking is reduced to a manageable level, we have a few favorite mobility exercises that the neck and jaw exercises that we use.
Check Out our Favorite TMJ Pain Relief Exercises
Cervical Snags for Neck Mobility
When assessing jaw pain in the clinic, there needs to be an extensive evaluation of the neck because more times than not, there is significant neck involvement that is contributing to at least some of the jaw pain symptoms you may be experiencing.
One of our favorite exercises to help restore neck rotation and reduce neck muscle tension is the SNAG exercise. When performing correctly, it helps restore neck mobility and directly takes pressure off of the TMJ which can be contributing to some of your symptoms
A follow up from the SNAGS, people with jaw pain often have poor posture and a “forward head” meaning their neck naturally protrudes forward. Cervical retractions is one of our favorite mobility drills to help remedy this problem. It improves range of motion in the lower neck/upper back and directly helps take pressure off the TMJ
Self Distraction for Jaw Pain Relief
When there’s jaw clicking, arthritis in the jaw joint, or limitations in mouth opening. There’s nothing we like more than providing a joint distraction to the jaw.
When we perform this TMJ exercise on our patients as a diagnostic test, more times often than not they experience an immediate relief in pressure and pain as the mobilization is being performed. That being said, it’s can be challenging to provide the same stretch on yourself, but we still think it’s worth giving it a try since it is such a great pain relief exercise.
Self Massage for Jaw Pain Relief
Almost every case of true TMJ pain, there will be gnarly trigger points in the masseter, temporalis, and lateral pterygoid jaw muscles. Our favorite intervention to reduce trigger points and jaw guarding is dry needling in the clinic.
But for home relief, there is also a lot of value in massage those muscles. We find the masseter muscle is an easy one to target that can provide significant TMJ pain relief.
If you’ve had jaw pain for years and have never tried the combination of TMJ exercises and interventions listed above (spinal manipulation, dry needling, intraoral massage, neck/postural retraining) we want to chat with you on the phone. We’ve had some amazing success and pain relief with triaging these interventions for long term management and resolution of jaw pain.
Find an Onward location that specializes in TMJ pain relief and set up a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we’re the right place to get you out of pain!