Do you have jaw pain? Does your jaw click, snap, pop or crack when you talk, eat or open your mouth? Do you have recurring neck or shoulder pain that you can’t quite put a finger on the cause? Your jaw muscle, the masseter, is one of the most frequently used muscles in your body. Every time you talk, eat, chew gum, or stress grind your teeth together, the masseter contracts. When was the last time you stretched your masseter? Chances are its been a veryyyyyy long time! The joint where your jaw bone (the mandible) meets your skull is called the temporomandibular joint. Dysfunction of this joint is known as temporomandibular dysfunction (commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD). Chances are if you are not suffering from TMD, you probably know someone who is – researchers estimate 5% – 12% of people suffer from jaw pain. If you are not interested in kissing crunchy food good bye and submitting yourself to a lifetime of soft foods, here are 3 things you should do for your jaw pain right now:
- Stop chewing gum. Seriously, just stop. Let’s just say you chew gum for 10 minutes a day – that’s probably about an extra 600 contractions (if you open and close your mouth every second) of the jaw muscles daily. If you did 600 bicep curls a day, what would your elbow and shoulder feel like? They’d be crazy sore! Stop overworking your jaw muscles with mindless gum chewing. If you use it to clean your mouth or freshen your breath after eating, set a timer for 3 minutes (MAX!) and then toss it.
- Relax your jaw. Every time you catch yourself clenching your bottom teeth towards the top, relax your teeth away from one another. You can do this without opening your mouth, so your co-workers will have no idea. This will help to train the masseter to actually rest, instead of remaining in constant contraction. The same goes for your tongue, which is also a muscle. If you find yourself pressing your tongue onto the roof of your mouth constantly, let your tongue relax away from the roof of your mouth as well. This will feel awkward and like you’ll instantly start drooling at first, but will eventually become the natural resting place for your newly pain-free jaw!
- Ease your tension with self-massage. My favorite way to soften the tension of my jaw is with a YTU Therapy Ball (see the video below). These balls are designed to get softer with use and will allow you to gently knead and compress into the über tight muscles of your face. I recommend you have a special ball you use exclusively for your face (right Solyn Skin Fitness?? 😉 ) so that you’re not rubbing your feet and the gym floor on your face. If it’s too intense to do like I am demonstrating in the video below, use your hand and a single ball to apply pressure, only graduating to the floor when you can tolerate it.
Jaw pain is not a life sentence, but it’s also not something to be ignored – prevention and reversal are much easier to deal with than an articular disk that has been torn to shreds.
Are you a gum chewer? What will be the hardest change to make as you resolve your jaw pain?
- May 21: Mobility for Performance: Total Body Treatment (Kettlebells South Bay, Torrance CA)
- May 22: Chew on This! A TMJ Tune Up (Atwater, CA)
- June 7-9: Total Body Treatment for Care-Givers (Reston, VA)
- July 24: T-Rex Hates Chaturanga (Brea, CA)
- July 29 – Aug 7: YTU Level 1 Teacher Training (San Juan Capistrano, CA)