[Dental Guest Post]
More people are turning to yoga for pain relief. This includes pain in the back, shoulders, backs, hips, and yes even the jaw. There are several yoga practices that you can use to relieve tension in the jaw, thus providing lasting pain relief. Further, jaw pain may be spreading through your neck, muscles, and even down to your lower back.
Jaw pain is often the result of a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) . This serious condition affects millions of Americans each year and can be difficult to treat. Often, simple over-the-counter pain medications fail to provide adequate pain relief and do little to nothing to address the underlying condition.
Fortunately, stretching and yoga can be used to alleviate tension.
First, let’s take a look at TMJ disorders and briefly go over some common symptoms. Then we’ll examine how yoga can provide pain relief and even help heal a TMD.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorders occur when the temporomandibular joint is functioning improperly. The temporomandibular joint  is a complicated system that allows our jaws to move in a variety of directions with both precision and strength. Unfortunately, if the joint is misaligned, inflamed, damaged, or otherwise not functioning correctly, it can result in persistent pain in the jaw.
Other common symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
● Pain around the ears or behind the eyes
● Stiffness or pain in the neck and shoulder
● A clicking sound when the jaw is moved
TMJ disorders can ultimately impact your quality of life. You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or talking. This could impact your mental well-being. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat TMJ disorders and to relieve associated pain. The appropriate yoga and stretching exercises, for example, can provide relief and help strengthen your jaw and the muscles attached to it.
Further, your jaw is a complex system of muscles and joints. A malfunction in one part of your jaw could quickly spread to other muscles. In some cases, TMJ disorders can even result in back pain. Yoga exercises that stretch and loosen muscles in your back, shoulders, neck, or face could thus provide pain relief.
Yoga and TMJ Disorders
A TMJ disorder can be aggravated by tense, tight muscles. The good thing about yoga for TMJ is that is it helps many people relax, resulting in looser muscles. The best yoga poses for TMJ don’t necessarily address the jaw directly. Indirect movements could help relieve pain by allowing you to reach a more relaxed state.
Some beneficial yoga positions for TMJ disorders include :
● Downward facing cobra
● Vamping pose
● Neck strengthener
● Unlocking the jaw
Yoga positions that encourage a healthy, strong neck and/or facial muscles may be especially beneficial. Good posture elsewhere, however, may also prove effective at treating TMJ disorders or at least relieving pain.
Good Posture May Reduce Strain on Your Jaw
The National Institute of Health has found that roughly 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. This is often due to poor posture, and unfortunately, bad posture could strain your jaw and neck muscles. If you have a TMJ disorder, bad back posture could be compounding your condition.
Fortunately, yoga can help straighten out your back, build up core muscle strength, and improve your posture. Good posture may help relieve tension in your neck and jaw muscles, which could reduce TMJ related pain and may also help heal the underlying condition.
Using Yoga to Treat TMJ-related Headaches
One of the more common symptoms of TMJ disorders are headaches, which are often caused by muscle tension. Since TMJ disorders can cause muscles to tense up, they can result in headaches. Fortunately, yoga has proven to be an effective treatment for headaches.
Yoga encourages you to take deep breaths. The increased intake of oxygen can help alleviate headaches. Further, many yoga exercises increase blood flow, which can also provide headache relief. Yoga positions that encourage deep breathing and increased blood flow to the brain are often the most effective.
Yoga is also relaxing. Headaches can be compounded by stress and may even contribute to your TMJ disorder. So simply using your normal yoga routine to relieve stress and anxiety could help.
Increased Bloodflow May Aid Healing
Not only could increased blood flow help alleviate headaches, it could also aid in healing. By providing the muscles and other tissues that make up the TMJ with more oxygen and nutrients, your body may be able to heal itself. Luckily, many yoga exercises and positions encourage good blood flow.
Unlocking Your Jaw with Meditation
One common symptom of a TMJ disorder is a locked jaw. If your jaw locks up, you may suddenly find yourself unable to open or close it. This can be a scary experience. However, with meditation, you may be able to unlock your jaw.
First, assume a seated meditation position. To the best of your ability, try to calm yourself, taking slow, steady breaths and slowing your heart rate. This can be difficult, especially with a locked jaw, so don’t be surprised if it takes a bit.
Then, relax the muscles in your jaw and mouth, including your tongue. Try to spread the relaxation outwards, reaching towards your eyes and neck. Also, try to slowly bring your teeth apart. With practice, you may be able to use this simple meditative treatment to unlock your jaw!
Other TMJ Disorder Treatments
While you can use yoga for TMJ relief, you may need further treatment. TMJ disorders can be treated naturally and through physical therapy. For example, hot and cold compresses can provide temporary pain relief. Hot compresses may also stimulate blood flow while a cold compress could reduce swelling.
Bite orthotics can also be used to realign your jaw and address other issues. If your jaw is misaligned, yoga can provide temporary relief but you may have to adjust your bite in order to enjoy lasting relief.
Either way, TMJ disorders are a treatable condition and yoga should be a part of your treatment plan.