Exercise itself doesn’t usually directly contribute to TMJ disorder, but it can indirectly contribute if you tend to clench your jaw or use improper form while exercising. If you notice that you experience jaw pain or other TMJ symptoms after exercising, it could be from clenching your teeth, placing too much strain on your neck and jaw muscles, or both.
How Can Exercise Affect the Jaw?
Many people have a tendency to clench their jaw while straining to lift something heavy or while pushing their body during difficult exercises. Clenching the jaw too often can cause problems with the temporomandibular joint, such as misalignment or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which runs through the face near the joint.
In addition, using improper form during exercises such as sit-ups can place strain on the neck and jaw muscles. If you are not sure about your form, try talking to a personal trainer to get tips on the proper way to do your exercises. Improper form can lead not only to TMJ symptoms, but can cause injury as well.
Treatments for Jaw Pain and TMJ Symptoms
If you experience jaw pain after your workout, you can try some gentle jaw stretches to help relax your muscles and relieve the pain. Ibuprofen and a hot compress can also help in the short term. If your jaw pain goes away after correcting your form and consciously relaxing your jaw while working out, this may be all you need.
If you continue to experience jaw pain even after correcting your form and clenching, or if you experience jaw pain in addition to other symptoms, you should see Dr. Clancy for a consultation. Other symptoms that can indicate TMJ include:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Earaches or tinnitus
- Stiff, grinding, or popping jaw
TMJ disorder is typically caused by a jaw misalignment, and should be diagnosed by a dentist experienced in neuromuscular dentistry. Dr. Clancy uses sophisticated diagnostic tools to determine the cause and extent of your TMJ disorder, and offers treatment options which can include:
- A mouth guard to prevent clenching at night or during exercise
- An orthotic device to hold the jaw in place
- Restorative and/or orthodontic dental work to align the teeth and the jaw properly
Each TMJ case is unique to the individual patient, and may require different combinations of treatments. Dental work is a common solution to help realign the jaw, and may be done after determining and testing the best position of the jaw through an orthotic device.