Are you struggling with TMJ pain or issues?
You should consider yoga as a healthy alternative to medicine or surgery.
Yoga can be life-changing.
It's one of the main, natural alternatives given by many experts on TMJ.
In today's article, we'll explain why and give you some helpful exercises to try at home.
What causes TMJ problems in the first place?
TMJ (short for temporomandibular joint) disorders strike your jaw, and often, the pain radiates outward to your ears, skull and neck.
These problems can cause a slew of symptoms, including jaw pain, jaw locking, difficulty chewing, migraines and more.
Some people are more at risk - like those who suffer from arthritis or who have other joint problems.
An injury to the face can also cause TMJ problems.
TMJ problems are more than mere annoyances.
If left untreated, your symptoms may get worse and become even more difficult to treat. That means more pain, less jaw function, an uneven bite, severe chewing problems and more.
Even worse: TMJ can be exacerbated by stress and regular life events.
Having a bad day at work? You're probably gonna start clenching your jaw, and then, TMJ pain.
The worst part of that is that TMJ causes stress, which can make TMJ pain even worse. This means that TMJ can trap you in a cycle of pain which can be very difficult to break!
Treatments are available which can help you reduce your pain and improve your life.
Over the counter medications can provide relief, but that is often temporary.
Muscle relaxants can help, too, but those can often have problematic side effects.
In very serious cases, surgery may be necessary, but that is obviously expensive and dangerous.
Surgery is always a last resort for TMJ, used in only the most extreme cases.
Thankfully, medical professionals have begun to explore a variety of new ways to treat TMJ, and research shows that these alternative methods are promising.
One such treatment?
Yoga for TMJ pain can provide a great deal of relief.
The 3 main reasons why people choose Yoga (including for TMJ)
How many people do you think do yoga?
A few million? Maybe ten million?
Try 36 million Americans and 300 million people worldwide.
Even more astonishingly is the growth in people participating in yoga.
These numbers have increased by an astonishing 50% since 2012-2016.
Yoga has become more than just a hobby. It's now big business:
Americans spend ~$16 billion on yoga-related activities, and there are now over 6000 yoga studios open in the United States.
So, we've established that plenty of Americans are doing yoga, but that leaves two questions:
- Why are they doing it?
- And is it doing any good?
According to a study, more than 90% of people who practice yoga do so for one of three reasons:
- Enhancing general wellness
- Physical exercise
- Stress management.
At the same time, 98% of the people who took yoga classes said they thought doing so would improve their health, while 28% said they were doing so in order to alleviate a specific health condition.
Does that work? Absolutely.
A review of studies and surveys show that the benefits of yoga are great ways to improve physical health.
According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), regular practice of yoga can reduce pain - even chronic pain - with studies pointing to pain relief for your lower back, arthritis and headaches.
Need more proof?
A report from Harvard shows that yoga can reduce the pain which arises from a slew of chronic conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia.
In some cases, regular yoga practice can improve your daily function if you have a chronic pain condition (like TMJ).
In other words, it can help give you your life back!
Yoga's benefits go beyond just pain relief
On this issue, the research is absolutely clear:
Yoga can be a game-changer for your health.
But it can be great for so much more than that.
In addition to the pain relief provided, the American Osteopathic Association says that yoga can provide an array of physical benefits, including increased flexibility, muscle tone and energy.
It can also help you lose weight, improve your athletic performance and protect you from injury.
Yoga is a fantastic tool when it comes to stress reduction.
One national survey showed that an astonishing 85% of people who practiced yoga said it helped them relief stress.
There are many reasons for these stress relieving effects.
First, yoga is exercise, and that is always great for stress reduction. But yoga can also chance your mindset and the way you think.
Yoga is all about ensuring that you view yourself in a kind, non-judgmental manner.
It also can improve the way you breathe and the connection between your mind and body.
There are also numerous mental health benefits of yoga in addition to stress reduction.
According to another Harvard report, active practice of yoga can serve to reduce anxiety and help provide relief from depression.
By relieving anxiety, depression and stress, yoga practice can allow for clearer thinking and sharper decision making.
This occurs by shifting your nervous system out of a flight-or-flight mindset, and into a more restful, peaceful state.
By increasing your wellbeing, you are better able to function and connect with other people.
All of these, of course, can assist you in reducing your stress and improve your mental condition. And again, stress is a big factor when it comes to a variety of TMJ conditions.
For example, people with TMJ disorders are far more likely to grind their teeth in their sleep.
Teeth grinding can also be caused by stress, and all of this, can make TMJ issues worse!
Yoga for the uninitiated
If you've never done yoga before, it's a good idea to learn how to prepare for it.
Many yoga teachers have given some basic advice about what to do before a yoga class or session.
Some of these tips include:
- Be well-hydrated and avoid caffeine for a few hours prior to the class.
- East a light snack or small meal 1-2 hours before class.
- Bring a bottle of water, towel and comfortable clothing which will allow you to move without tripping.
- If you're doing a class, check in beforehand to determine what materials you should bring.
Before doing a TMJ-specific yoga routine, you may be interested in checking out a basic, beginners yoga routine.
First, check out this 12 position guide by Self, which goes through the most basic poses you will do in Yoga. You can also look at this guide by Yoga Journal, which goes through poses and some basic sequences.
If you are someone who likes videos better, here are two great ones.
First, there's this one by SarahBethYoga, which is about ten minutes long:
If you're looking for something a little bit longer, you can check out this thirty minute one by PsycheTruth:
Yoga for TMJ pain relief
There are no shortage of potential resources which can help you learn how to do yoga which can provide relief for potential TMJ problems.
First is this six step guide, which comes directly from Yoga International.
It recommends six potential poses for TMJ relief:
- Vamping Pose: While seated, you hold the bottom of your skull with one hand in order to stretch your next. At the same time, you stretch your other arm, perpendicular to the ground. Hold that for three breaths, and switch sides.
- Downward Facing Cobra: You lie down, on your stomach, facing the ground, with your forehead just off the floor. Keep your arms along the side of your body. From there, inhale, and keep your gaze down while bringing your chest upwards. Release the movement when you exhale.
- Unlocking the Jaw: Sit and place your first on one side of your jaw. Turn your head toward the fist, pressing the first into the side of your neck (but not so hard that you feel pain!) Next, press your jaw into your hand, take two breaths, and release.
- Neck Strengthener: Place your fingers behind your head, linking your fingers. From there, take your head and press it into your palm. Breathe deeply three times. From there, turn your head to the left, and press it into your palms. Take three breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
- Singing Snake: Sit. Inhale, and lower your chin. When you exhale through your mouth, lift your head. Inhale again, and again, bring your chin down, but tilt it to the left. Repeat by bringing your head to the center, then to the right.
Additionally, there are ample videos which give help you learn yoga for TMJ.
First, there's this one by Ekhart Yoga TV. It's about twenty minutes long and goes through a variety of basic poses.
Complex PTSD Made Simple also has a video, about ten minutes long.
This one is less fluid than the Ekhart video and contains moves which almost exclusively involve manipulation of the jaw.
Of course, these all show how to use yoga for TMJ pain.
Last is this video by MaliaYoga, which is roughly fifteen minutes in length.
It is relatively gentle yoga which contains a routine which initially concentrates on the face, but eventually works the complete body.
Want to help your TMJ? Get off the meds and onto a yoga mat
TMJ is a frustrating issue that can cause immense discomfort and pain.
People are finding better ways to deal with this debilitating disorder.
Thankfully, yoga is an inexpensive, peaceful way to get relief from TMJ.
It comes with many other benefits as well.
Yoga for TMJ can not only help your jaw, but improve your whole body and sense of well being.
Give it a try.