Your temporomandibular joint is not something you really think about until your jaw starts popping. Also known as TMJ, is composed of two joints that are located at the back of the lower jaw, just in front of each ear, and connects to the upper jaw and skull.
What you may not realise is just how often your TMJ is used. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently used joints in the entire body, and is activated when chewing, swallowing, communicating and making facial expressions.
Your jaw popping is just one of the symptoms linked to TMJ disorders. Other symptoms can include joint pain and stiffness, inflammation or swelling, reduced range of motion, pain when chewing, facial pain, headaches and fatigue.
The good news is that it’s very treatable, both medically and physically (without the use of drugs).
4 Physical exercises to alleviate TMJ pain
Exercise 1: How to relax your jaw
Begin with touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth behind your upper front teeth. Now, open and close your mouth, allowing your teeth to come apart. This is one of the easiest jaw relaxation exercises you can do just about anywhere at any time. Do 1 set of 6 reps a couple of times a day, or as advised by your dentist.
Alternatively: Again, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and one finger on the TMJ just in front of your ear. Using your other hand, place your pointer finger on your chin and drop your lower jaw halfway and close. You have the option of being able to go halfway or fully open.
Do 1 set of 6 reps a couple of times a day, or as advised by your dentist.
Exercise 2: Chin tucks
Chin tucks can be best done standing with your back against a wall or standing up straight, shoulders back and chest up. Pull your chin towards the wall (yes, like you’re making a ‘double chin’ on purpose) and hold it for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this process a couple of times.
Exercise 3: Mouth resistance training
First off, place your thumb under your chin and while opening your mouth slowly, push gently against your chin to apply resistance. Hold this for 3 to 5 seconds and then close your mouth slowly. Similarly, squeeze your chin using your index finger and thumb. As you close your mouth apply some pressure on your chin. Doing this will help strengthen the muscles that you use to chew.
Exercise 4: Jaw movements
For side to side jaw movements —
Place a wooden pop stick between your top and bottom front teeth and slowly move your jaw from side to side while clenching the pop stick between your teeth.
For front and back jaw movements —
Similarly to the exercise above, while clenching the wooden pop stick move your jaw back and forth. As the 2 exercises get easier, increase the thickness of the object until the exercise becomes easier.