Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder consists of tension throughout the jaw joint region and accompanying muscles. It can manifest as jaw pain, teeth grinding, headaches, earaches, limited range of motion (lock jaw), inflammation, neck pain and muscle spasms. Eventually it can cause changes in facial structure from muscle development. While teeth grinding occurs mostly during sleep, jaw clenching can happen subconsciously throughout the day. However, there are quite a few natural ways to heal TMJ concerns and pain so let’s dig in below.
TMJ disorders consist of the muscles of mastication/chewing.
Runs from the TMJ, located about an inch in front of the ear to the lower jaw. The masseter is the strongest muscle in the body and is responsible for lifting the jaw and closing the mouth. An over development of this muscle can cause the appearance of an overly square jaw.
The temporalis muscle covers the side of the head in front, over the temples and above and behind the ear to the temporal mandibular joint region in front of the ears. Responsible for lifting the jaw and closing the mouth.
Located deep within the face, on the inner surface of the mandible. The lateral pyterygoids open the jaw and the medial pyterygoids elevates and moves jaw forward.
Become familiar with jaw muscles in order to successfully practice natural ways to heal TMJ concerns and pain.
Start by opening and closing mouth while using fingers to feel around the TMJ area, about an inch in front of the ears. You will feel the skin divot as the mouth opens and closes. From there, the masseter can be easily found by placing fingers on lower, most square part of jaw and clenching. The temporalis can be felt by placing hands on the temples and clenching. The pyterygoids are found inside the mouth, back near molars where jaw opens and closes and can feel like thick rubber bands.
Headaches from TMJ disorder tend to be dull, achy and run right up the side of the head. This can also induce tightness throughout the entire scalp. Relaxing the 2 main players of a tense jaw, masseter and temporalis will bring relief.
Natural Ways to Heal TMJ Concerns
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are a manifestation of stress and tension. Everyday life isn’t going anywhere, there will always be stressors we cannot prevent but learning to manage stress our stress is up to us. Be it mediation, exercise, yoga, the key is utilizing these tools to manage and prevent the stress from manifesting as physical pain.
Stay Conscious of Your Jaw
Start becoming more mindful of your jaw during the day is one of the best ways to heal TMJ concerns. It is not uncommon to subconsciously clench the jaw. Do body scans often and check in with your jaw, neck and head. Very often we may not even be aware that we are clenching our jaw throughout the day so check in often with body scans to relax tension. I do body scans at my computer, while I’m working on clients, driving, before I fall asleep and basically anytime I think about it.
Keep teeth loosely apart with the tongue resting on roof of mouth and lightly touching the 2 front teeth. With tongue touching the 2 front teeth, it is impossible to clench your jaw. This has been a major help for me.
Avoid things like holding the phone between your head and neck, chewing gum and leaning on your chin. All of the above inevitably clench the jaw, contract the neck and cause tightness throughout the neck and jaw area.
Palpate the muscles as listed above and work out any tension. You can do these techniques on a clean face with a slip of oil and they are especially relaxing before bed.
Open, close and move jaw side to side with slow stretching movements to begin.
From there, start at the bottom of the jaw on masseter and work up the muscle to joint area in front of ears. Massage the joint region, up to the temples, back down to the bottom of the jaw. Focus on the jaw area while opening and closing mouth. You can also add in moist heat in combination with this nightly massage to help relax and soothe the area before bed.
Inner Mouth Massage
Check out my at home Inner Mouth massage tutorial here.
Methods such as Gua Sha can help relieve muscle tension throughout the jaw area and are easy to use. Start from the inside area of where the cheek meets the nose and work outwards over the jaw, working out tension and concentrating on tender areas. Gua she is excellent for TMJ conditions as well as lymphatic drainage, sinus congestion and anti-aging.
Magnesium works in conjunction with calcium and is a vital nutrient in reducing calcium induced contraction and tension throughout the body. A function of calcium works to contracts cells and magnesium then works to push excess calcium out of the cells so muscles can then relax. However, when there is a lack of magnesium, calcium remains in the cells and muscles remain tight and tense. This happens in our jaws and throughout the body. The relaxing and decompressing attributes of magnesium assist in stress management and reducing tension headaches, jaw pain, anxiety, constipation and charlie horses. Check out Moon Juice Magnesi-om here for an effective magnesium supplement.
Oil pulling is super healthy for the mouth, gums and detoxifying for the whole body according to Ayurvedic Principles. While there isn’t much scientific evidence to back up claims of oil pulling for TMJ conditions, it can certainly assist in alleviating tightness the jaw. I do believe on an energetic level that the detoxifying element of oil pulling draws out both physical and emotional toxins that can manifest as tension. However, these are my personal intuitive findings and feelings. On a basic level, oil pulling consists of mouth washing movements for 20 min with coconut oil/oil of choice. The action in general helps to open and increase circulation, inevitably releasing tightness throughout the jaw area.
Acupuncture is a phenomenal and natural way to heal TMJ pain. Acupuncture works to alleviate painful attributes of TMJ disorders while also balancing our wellbeing as a whole. This helps us to manage the stress that may very well be the root manifestation of TMJ tension. Acupressure, moxibustion, cupping and gua sha are all modalities that acupuncturists can also perform or combine together for TMJ treatment if needles are not your thing. I personally enjoy needles and everything about acupuncture.