Do your face, neck and shoulders feel tense and painful? Could be the jaw. These exercises relieve the pain
If the temporomandibular joint hurts and the tension pulls up to the neck and shoulder, it doesn’t mean as sharp pain as, for example, stomach or headache. More like a dull malaise.
Still, you shouldn’t underestimate jaw pain or tension. Because: “Pain is always a warning signal that something is wrong,” says our expert Judith Höferlin. Physiotherapist and owner of the Höferlin Institute in Basel.
Where does jaw tension come from?
Normally, your jaw should only be used when chopping food. However, many people, who mostly suffer from too much stress in everyday life, tend to grind their teeth. These 7 methods will help when you grind your teeth. They use their jaw muscles not only to eat but subconsciously to cope with stress. When “grinding their teeth”. This can lead to tension.
The first noticed consequences are mostly neck pain. The reason: You perceive the pain in the neck faster than that of the jaw muscles due to the possibly restricted mobility of the head or even a slight headache.
What happens when there is tension in the jaw?
The jaw, neck, and shoulders have a mutual influence on each other. “When the jaw muscles tense, the neck muscles also tense reflexively. As soon as the teeth touch. The masticatory muscles receive the input: Now tense! Therefore, the teeth should only touch when necessary – like when chewing,” says Höferlin.
This means that the more you grind your teeth, the more your neck muscles have to resist.
Tip: Ideally, your upper and lower teeth should not meet for more than 30 minutes within a 24-hour period. When grinding your teeth. On the other hand, it is usually just under 2 hours. “The teeth shouldn’t touch each other at rest, the tongue lies loosely on the roof of the mouth and doesn’t press against the teeth, the breath flows through the nose, even during physical or mental exertion,” says the expert.
These aids promise quick relief for jaw problems:
- Splints against grinding teeth at night
- Aqua splint for acute jaw pain
- Relaxation arch against tension in the jaw
How do I know if my jaw is tight?
Since teeth grinding often happens unconsciously, for example during sleep, jaw tension is hardly noticeable at first. “Often you don’t even notice it yourself. Your partner hears it at night or the dentist draws your attention to it. If you’re not recovered, worn out, or tense in the morning, this may be due to grinding your teeth,” explains the physiotherapist.
What are the causes of jaw tension?
The causes can be very different. Höferlin: “Among other things, misalignments after dental treatment, an unfavorable jaw position, disruptions after accidents, falls or whiplash can lead to tension in the jaw.” This is how invisible braces work for adults .
In addition, excessive stress can cause the muscles of the jaw to tighten and cause pain. “Stress, which is noticeable in clenching or grinding teeth, can definitely lead to jaw pain,” says Höferlin.
What can I do about grinding my teeth at night?
Teeth grinding usually occurs when you cannot switch off your thoughts when you go to bed when you take your problems and conflicts with you to sleep. To avoid the crunch, you should take a look at your evening program and redesign it if necessary.
The physiotherapist has a few tips for a stress-free evening routine: “An evening walk, no excessive TV or PC consumption, and alcohol should not be consumed excessively. It is good not to take everyday problems with you into the night.”
How do I relax my jaw muscles?
The jaw muscles are the type of muscle that is regularly used without your really being aware of it. Chewing, speaking, grinding your teeth – your jaw has to do a lot day and night. These 3 exercises can help you relax your jaw muscles.
Important: Have you had problems or pain in your jaw for a long time? Or maybe you even had an operation? Then be sure to speak to a doctor before trying these exercises.
1st exercise: jaw stretching
Do you know the pleasant feeling of a leisurely yawn? The jaw is stretched nicely. Which is especially good if the mouth has not been opened all day. This exercise is therefore similar to a yawn combined with a simple relaxation massage.
To do this, first, loosen your jaw muscles by massaging your jaw on the right and left with your fingertips in small circular movements. After that, you open your mouth as wide as you can without making it uncomfortable. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then relax again. The whole thing should be repeated 10 times.
As an alternative, you can just yawn several times a day now and then. This already relaxes your chewing muscle. Important: Your jaw should always be loose
2nd exercise: jaw resistance
This exercise is used to strengthen the jaw muscles. Press your dominant hand against your chin. Try to push it forward against the resistance of the hand, and hold it there for about 10 seconds. Then let it go again and repeat everything a total of 5 times.
Then do the same with the right and left sides. Place your right hand on your right cheek and slide your chin 5 times to the right against the resistance. Then your left hand towards the left cheek.
3rd exercise: jaw acupressure
Do you have strong tension? Then this exercise will definitely help you! By pressing certain acupressure points, as with a massage, a large part of the tension is usually released.
On either side of your face, place your middle finger in the small indentation next to the earlobe. This is where your TMJ starts. Press these two points for about 15 to 30 seconds. Do you feel an uncomfortable pull? No panic! When you let go, it should subside and the tension should have loosened somewhat afterward. Repeat this 3 to 4 times.
Tip: do you sleep on your stomach or your side? You should change this as it puts pressure on your jaw joint – sleeping on your back is best for your jaw
How can jaw pain be prevented?
The first tip from our expert is introspection. Since tension or pain in the jaw is very often caused by stress. It is important to keep an eye on your own body and its signals. Observe yourself in stressful situations: Do you know exactly what types of situations trigger stress or restlessness in you? How do you deal with it? The best relaxation tips for stressful situations
In addition, to prevent tension, you should consciously bring your jaw into the “resting position”. This means that the teeth do not touch The tongue lies loosely on top of the roof of the mouth and does not press against the teeth. Then you open your mouth – this movement relaxes the muscles.
“Progressive muscle relaxation promotes self-awareness. So: when am I tense, when not,” explains Höferlin. You will learn to distinguish between the states of relaxation and tension and you will be able to recognize at an early stage whether your jaw is tense – before the headache and neck pain come.
Which doctor can help with TMJ pain?
The doctor often only prescribes physiotherapy. “The essential therapy for temporomandibular joint problems, besides the correct tooth position and splint fitting, consists in the therapy of the muscles, relaxation, and coordination, as well as in behavior change and perception during grinding and pressing. All of this is handled by the physiotherapist,” says our expert.
But some dentists specialize in temporomandibular joint problems (called craniomandibular dysfunction). “It is worth inquiring in advance. Orthodontists, oral surgeons, or physiotherapists can also help with tension or pain in the jaw,” says Höferlin.
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