SELF-CARE for TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DISORDERS
What You Must Do To Manage Your Problem:
While TMJ treatment options can improve the harmony and function of your jaw, your success will depend in a large part upon the way you treat these injured areas. The most important role you can play throughout your treatment program (and your lifetime) is resting your jaw, so it can heal and regain stability. The following instructions will greatly enhance the correction and healing of this area.
Resting Your Jaw: The most important kind of self-care, resting your jaw, relaxes muscles and takes the pressure off your joint, which can then heal more easily.
Lips together, teeth apart: Bring your teeth together only when you’re eating. Learn to recognize when you clench your teeth, such as when you’re under stress: then relax your jaw and separate your teeth.
Practice good posture: Good head, neck and back posture help maintain good jaw posture, too. Try to hold your head straight up, avoid leaning on your hand when reading or watching TV, and use a lumbar roll for support behind your lower back.
Eat soft foods: Do not eat hard crusts of bread, tough meat, raw vegetable or any other food that will require prolonged chewing. Do not bite any foods with your front teeth – everything must be cut up and chewed on the back teeth. Do not chew gum. Eat soft foods like eggs, yogurt, casseroles and soup.
Do not strain: Avoid protruding your jaw during conversation, smoking, etc. If you wear lipstick, do not bring your jaw forward when applying it. When yawning, try to keep your jaw from stretching open by placing your chin on your chest or holding your jaw closed with your hand. Try to sleep on your back. Avoid sleeping on your jaw.
Massage and Heat: Massage and heat are beneficial to people with a TMJ disorder. Moist heat helps to relax muscles and reduce pain. Massage will aid in the return of blood flow to the affected area. Use these techniques whenever pain flares up.
Moist Heat: Moist heat applications (wet washcloth warned in microwave) should be used for 30 minutes at least twice daily. These applications should be placed over the painful area for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute pause, and then reapplied two more times in the same manner.
Massage: Massage using a moderate kneading motion over the involved area will help reduce muscle pain and spasm.
Medications: If nothing else controls your pain when it flares up, medications might help. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, naproxen) can reduce pain and swelling – buy over the counter and take as directed. If you cannot take these medications, take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours as needed. If you were prescribed medication, please follow the instructions carefully.