TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) means there is inflammation and tightness of the temporomandibular joint that connects your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. The problem can take a toll of your health, as the affected joints allow your jaw to open and close, enabling you to speak and eat.
TMJ is very common. It affects about 10 million Americans. Also, the problem is more common in women than men, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research .
Trauma to the jaw or joint may play a role in the development of TMJ. Several other health conditions also may contribute to its development. These include arthritis, erosion of the joint, habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth, and structural jaw problems present at birth.
At the same time, certain factors can make you more prone to this kind of problem. Such risk factors include the use of orthodontic braces, poor posture that strains the muscles of the neck and face, prolonged stress, poor diet and lack of sleep.
Common symptoms of TMJ are pain in the face or neck, stiffness in the muscles of the jaw, popping or clicking sounds, and limited movement in the jaw area. Symptoms may show up on just one side of the face or both.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or home remedies. In fact, there are several home remedies for TMJ that are highly effective for fast relief from the symptoms.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for TMJ.
1. Give Your Jaw Some Rest
To deal with TMJ symptoms and prevent them from getting worse, the first thing you need to do is give your jaw some rest.
You can rest your jaw and ease the pain by:
- Not eating foods that require a lot of chewing or are quite tough or crunchy. Instead, follow a soft diet and include soups, pastas and other easy-to-eat foods.
- Avoiding taking big bites. Cut your food into smaller portions, so you don’t have to overwork your jaw.
- Not chewing gum.
- Not biting your fingernails or chewing on a pencil.
- Sleeping on your back or side.
- If you spend a lot of time working at a desk, maintain the correct posture and do no talk on your mobile phone for long hours.
2. Cold Compress
Applying a cold compress to the side of your face will help alleviate pain you may be experiencing due to TMJ. The cold temperature has a numbing effect on the nerves, thus dulling pain messages that go to your brain.
- Put ice into a plastic bag.
- Wrap it in a thin cloth.
- Apply the ice pack to the jaw area for 10 minutes.
- Take a break for 10 minutes before reapplying the ice pack.
Caution: Do not apply ice directly on your skin, as it can pose a risk of frostbite.
3. Warm Compress
Applying warm compresses over the jaw, temples and neck region will allow the muscles to relax and ease the symptoms.
In fact, it reduces jaw stiffness and pain by increasing blood supply to the region. It also provides a soothing distraction from the pain.
However, this simple remedy should be done as a preventive measure for a week or so, rather than doing it when the pain is at its peak.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water and wring out the excess water.
- Hold the moist washcloth around the jaw area for 5 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat a few times a day for a few days.
Note: Before applying a warm compress, check the temperature on your hand to avoid burning your jaw area.
Massaging the areas around the jaw is another effective way to relieve muscle tightness and enhance blood flow to the area.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that Western massage and strain-counterstrain techniques can improve jaw range of motion, and alleviate the intensity and reduce the frequency of TMJ-related pain without surgical or pharmacological intervention .
Another study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork in 2011 reports that massage provides positive results, but more extensive studies are needed to understand the effects of massage on temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) .
- Apply some warm coconut or olive oil on your jawline.
- Massage the area using your index and middle fingers, making circular motions for 5 minutes.
- Take a break and try to open and close your mouth 4 or 5 times.
- Repeat this process a few times.
5. Jaw Exercises
To deal with TMJ symptoms, you must exercise your jaw muscles.
Certain exercises help strengthen the jaw muscles, stretch the jaw, relax the jaw, increase jaw mobility, reduce jaw clicking and promote jaw healing. All these help reduce the pain caused by tight muscles.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Research reports that performing TMJ exercises increases mouth-opening range more than using a mouth guard in people with TMJ disc displacement .
- Open your mouth as wide as you can without feeling pain, then move your jaw to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Do the same with the left side. Repeat the cycle 5 times.
- Press the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then slowly open your mouth as wide as you can without it becoming painful. Do this simple exercise as many times as you can. If you feel pain, stop performing the exercise.
Acupuncture can also be used to treat TMJ and provide comfort from the painful symptoms. The acupuncture points lie along meridians in your body, where a specialist trained in acupuncture inserts hair-thin needles to treat pain.
A study published in the Journal of Dentistry in 2007 reports that acupuncture had a positive influence on the signs and symptoms of TMJ myofascial pain. In addition, this study provides evidence that the Park Sham Device was a credible acupuncture control method for trials involving facial acupoint .
A 2017 study published in Medicine (Baltimore) indicates that conventional acupuncture therapy is effective in reducing the degree of pain in patients with TMD, especially those with myofascial pain symptoms .
When it comes to acupuncture, always see a specialist trained in acupuncture or acupressure, who are experts in treating TMJ.
7. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is an increasingly popular natural treatment for treating jaw pain associated with TMJ.
In chiropractic care, different techniques like palpation, pressure, massage, exercise programs and lifestyle counseling are used together to help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. The techniques help a lot in improving the range of motion by loosening the tight muscles, aiding circulation and reducing pain.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that TMD symptoms of participants improved following a course of treatment using chiropractic care .
Another study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2015 reports that chiropractic care showed a reduction of temporomandibular dysfunction symptoms .
For the treatment of TMJ, always make sure that you choose a qualified and reputable chiropractic center.
8. Capsaicin Cream
Capsaicin has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce jaw pain due to TMJ.
When applied topically, capsaicin cream produces a warming sensation that helps reduce the pain.
Over-the-counter pain-relieving topical capsaicin creams are available in concentrations ranging from .025 percent to .075 percent capsaicin. All you need to do is apply the cream to the jaw area 2 or 3 times a day.
However, be sure not to apply capsaicin cream on broken or irritated skin.
As TMJ may be caused by muscle tension and spasms in the jaw, foods high in magnesium can be beneficial in controlling the symptoms.
Magnesium helps relax muscle tension and helps maintain normal muscle and nerve functioning. In fact, a deficiency of this mineral is linked to spasms, cramps, tension and other muscle problems.
- To get more magnesium in your body, eat foods like spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocados, figs, dark chocolate and bananas.
- You can opt to take a magnesium supplement, but only after consulting your doctor.
Along with magnesium, be sure to eat calcium-rich foods. Calcium works with magnesium to aid in muscle relaxation.
10. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation around the joints in the jaw can worsen the pain and other TMJ symptoms. To reduce inflammation, following an anti-inflammatory diet can help a lot.
For instance, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation naturally and can help improve circulation.
To get omega-3 fatty acids, eat more wild-caught fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, as well as olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds and so on.
Anti-inflammatory herbs and teas like green tea, turmeric, raw garlic and ginger can also benefit a lot.
No matter what, you need to choose easy-to-chew cooked foods. Such foods are easy to eat with minimal jaw movement, which in turn will help reduce swelling and joint deterioration.
At the same time, you must avoid foods that can worsen inflammation, such as added sugars, refined grain products, alcohol and too much caffeine.
- Eat small meals to help stabilize your blood sugar and prevent fluctuations that can trigger increased grinding of the teeth.
- Avoid chewing gum at any cost.
- If nightly teeth grinding or clenching is contributing to your TMJ, consult your dentist about wearing a mouth guard.
- If you see someone yawning, resist the temptation to join in.
- TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmj/more-info.
- Massage therapy decreases frequency and intensity of symptoms related to temporomandibular joint syndrome in one case study. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859207000381. Published May 23, 2007.
- Changes in Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Symptoms Following Massage Therapy: A Case Report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3242647. Published 2011.
- Randomized Clinical Trial of Treatment for TMJ Disc Displacement. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022034510378424.
- The efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of temporomandibular joint myofascial pain: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Dentistry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17095133. Published March 2007.
- Acupuncture therapy in the management of the clinical outcomes for temporomandibular disorders. Medicine (Baltimore). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5340435. Published March 2017.
- Chiropractic treatment of temporomandibular disorders using the activator adjusting instrument: a prospective case series. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12975628. Published September 2003.
- Chiropractic Treatment of Temporomandibular Dysfunction: A Retrospective Case Series. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688559. Published December 2015.