How To Relax Your Jaw + 8 Exercises

Young woman feeling stressed on a blue backgroundMona Freundwrote that the United States has a jaw-clenching problem. More than 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from TMDs (Temporomandibular Disorders)—or, in simpler terms, tight jaw muscles. You may hear this condition referred to, incorrectly, as just “TMJ,” after the Temporomandibular Joint. You can, however, refer to it as a “TMJ disorder.” Whatever you choose to call it, it hurts!

But muscle pain in the jaw, grinding teeth, or tension headaches can also occur in people who don’t have TMJ disorders.

The bad news: It’s (most likely) related to stress. The good news: There are things you can do to help it. Of course, it’s hard to just stop being stressed, but you can mitigate it to alleviate the pain and clenching and prevent it from taking over your life.

Why Do Jaw Muscles Tighten Up?

Your jaw may be hurting for a variety of reasons. It’s possible that you overexerted your jaw, injured it, or have inflammation in the area. Even chronic stress can lead to tightness in your jaw muscles, especially if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth.

TMDs

TMDs cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joint and the muscles that control its movement. The temporomandibular joint is the most complicated joint in the body due to the combination of hinging and sliding motions. It’s also extremely delicate. “You have muscles, cartilage, bone, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels all in a very small space, being moved in a complex fashion, thousands of times a day,” Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Dental Officer at Tend, tells TNW. “Unfortunately, that means there is ample opportunity for one element to stop working properly and set off a chain reaction for the rest of the system.”

TMD often affects women more than men, but scientists still don’t know the exact cause of TMD. Common symptoms include a painful clicking or popping along your jaw when you open it, a change in how your teeth fit together, or general stiffness and pain around the jaw or neck.

This condition can manifest as sudden discomfort in the jaw or pain around the joints that accompanies biting. For many, the symptoms of TMJ disorders can often appear seemingly out of nowhere, which is why it’s important to manage them early on.

 

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