When it comes to TMJ disorder, the best approach is one that incorporates a few different treatments to alleviate your immediate pain and also resolve its underlying cause. While treatment plans are all unique and vary from one patient to the next depending on the nature of their TMD, self-managed at-home care is something we recommend for everyone. Here are some simple ways you can manage your TMJ pain at home.
We share a number of different jaw exercises for short-term TMJ relief on our blog. The goal of each is to strengthen the jaw, relax the jaw, or stretch the jaw. These exercises are ideal for when your TMJ disorder is flaring up and you need short-term relief of your pain. Often, patients with TMD spend their entire day with tension in the jaw. Doing these exercises will help you identify that tension and know when you need to take steps to relax your jaw muscles.
Hot and Cold Therapy
A combination of hot and cold therapy is a tried-and-true treatment strategy for TMJ disorder. You can simply alternate between an ice pack and a warm, wet washcloth, or you can incorporate jaw exercises by applying the ice pack for 10 minutes, doing a few jaw exercises, then applying the warm washcloth for 5 minutes. You can repeat this a few times a day.
Change Your Diet
During a flare up, it’s important to give your jaw ample opportunity to rest, which means not eating hard, chewy, or crunchy foods. Gum, bagels, whole apples, and caramels are off the menu, while smoothies, yogurt, soup, scrambled eggs, and other soft foods are encouraged. Think twice about anything that requires a lot of chewing or foods that have aggravated your TMJ disorder in the past.
Avoid Extreme Jaw Movements and Bad Posture
When you yawn, try not to open your mouth wide; when you sit at the computer for work, don’t slouch or hold your chin up with your hand. Yelling, singing, and those double-decker burgers that require huge bites to eat should all be off-limits while your TMJ is acting up.
Believe it or not, magnesium supplementation can relieve TMJ pain. This is because magnesium naturally relaxes your muscles, easing tension throughout the body. Most Americans have low magnesium levels, so this simple step may make all the difference when it comes to TMD. You can boost your magnesium intake naturally by changing your diet, or take a supplement—magnesium comes in gummy and powdered form that can be stirred into water, in addition to standard capsules.
Finally, you should limit your caffeine intake. That cup of coffee doesn’t just cause jitters—it can also cause your muscles to tense up, and this tension can lead to jaw clenching. If you can’t go without your caffeine fix, try switching from coffee to matcha, which many patients find delivers the caffeine they need without causing anxiety and muscle tension.