SELF-MANAGEMENT FOR TMJ AND JAW PAIN
We use our mouths for many activities: talking, eating, yawning, and laughing. When we are not engaged in these, we need to allow our jaw muscles and joints to relax. Many people have developed habits that do not permit their jaw muscles or joints to relax. The steps listed below will help you learn how to relax these muscles and joints, and reduce the jaw pain you are experiencing.
1. Use hot or cold packs. Apply moist heat, ice or combination of the two to the painful areas. Wet a towel with warm water. Hold over the areas that have pain for about 20 minutes. To keep towel warm use a heating pad or reheat towel in the microwave for 30 seconds. When using the ice, hold on painful area for about 10 minutes. Repeat every 20 minutes, until pain is relieved. Most people prefer heat, but if that increases your pain, use either the combination or the ice alone.
2. Eat soft foods. Confine your diet to soft foods such as casseroles, canned fruit, soups, eggs and yogurt. Do not chew gum, or hard foods such as raw carrots or chewy foods like caramels, steak or bagels. Cut other foods into small pieces, and chew on both sides of your mouth to reduce the strain on one side.
3. Rest your jaw. Keep your teeth apart when you are not chewing. Good head, neck and back posture help you maintain good jaw posture. Avoid habits such as resting your jaw on your hand or cradling the telephone against your shoulder.
4. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine stimulates your muscles to contract and therefore, become tenser. Caffeine or caffeine like drugs are in coffee, tea, most sodas and chocolate.
5. Sleep smart. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, and if you sleep on your side, keep you neck and jaw aligned.
6. Don't open wide. Until the pain has been reduced, avoid activities that involve opening the jaw wide, such as yawning, yelling, prolonged dental treatments.
7. Use medications. Use anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing medications like Aleve, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol.