What is TMJ?
YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/ShutterstockTMJ (temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders) is a condition that causes pain in the jaw joint. While there are new dental treatments that may help TMJ, it still affects about 10 million Americans, according to National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. It's more common in women than men. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, popping or clicking sounds, and limited movement in the jaw area. Home remedies can be effective in the management of TMJ disorders. Below are a few worth trying.
Hot and cold compresses
kariphoto/Shutterstock"Warm compresses over the jaw, temples, and neck region for 10 to 12 minutes about two times daily can allow the muscles to relax and the symptoms to reduce," says Brijesh Chandwani, DMD, BDS, FAAOP, Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain and Associate Clinical Professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. "Warm compresses should be done as a preventive measure for a week or so rather than doing them when the pain is at its peak." Warm application can decrease jaw stiffness and pain by increasing blood supply to the region and it also provides a soothing distraction from the pain. "If warm compresses don't help after one to two days, switch to ice application," says Chandwani. "Ice application can reduce muscle spasm." Ice or cold can have a numbing effect on the pain. Here's how to know how to treat these common injuries with heat or ice.
Artem evdokimov/ShutterstockDo you know the signs of magnesium deficiency? Brush up, because TMJ may be caused by muscle tension and spasms in the jaw, and foods high in magnesium can help relax this muscle tension says Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse from New York City and founder of RemediesForMe.com, a site that sheds light on natural remedies for various ailments, such as jaw joint pain. Examples of food sources high in magnesium are: spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate, bananas. Eating a diet rich in these foods could help your TMJ.
puhhha/ShutterstockAdding these healthy fats to your diet is worthwhile—omega-3s can tack on years to your life. "They're essential to our bodily functions due to their anti-inflammatory effects," says Lee. Decreasing inflammation helps to repair damages within the body. Long-term inflammation contributes to all different types of diseases and illnesses such as TMJ, she notes.
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Eating soft food
Aleksandar Mijatovic/ShutterstockA soft diet for 5-7 days could help symptoms of TMJ as it reduces forces within the joint structures, notes Chandwani. Soft foods include scrambled eggs, soups, mashed potatoes, cooked (and soft) vegetables, applesauce and well-done pasta. Chewing gum is an absolute no-no.
Inflammation is bad news—and it may be related to TMJ troubles as well. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are home remedies that should be taken every four to six hours says Chandwani. They are nonspecific painkillers and can also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Over-the-counter topical creams such as arnica, tiger balm, and capsaicin can also be used on the painful areas (outside of the mouth, not in it) two to three times a day says Chandwani. Capsaicin, which tends to very helpful in easing muscle and nerve pain, can deliver a mild burning sensation: That's to be expected since it's thought to reduce the sensitivity of the nerves that transmit pain signals. These foods fight inflammation and pain.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock"Gentle massaging of the jaw and temple muscles should be done in a circular motion while opening and closing the jaw slowly for about 30 seconds every four to six hours," says Chandwani. Opening and closing the jaw allows stretching and massaging of most of the jaw muscle fibers. "Massaging and stretching the jaws benefits the jaw dysfunction by relaxing the jaw muscles and the repetition of the regimen can refrain the jaw muscles from tending up easily."
Monkey Business Images/ShutterstockRelaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and exercise can be very helpful home remedies as well, notes Chandwani. They can reduce the heart rate and blood pressure, relax the muscles of the whole body and also calm the autonomic nervous system. Poor sleep is commonly related to increased pain experience and improving sleep could help immensely. Here are some more ways you can improve your sleep.
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