The jaw joint is one that most people probably don’t think about until it starts to hurt, and to medical professionals, pain in this joint is called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Many cases of TMJ dysfunction are caused by overly tight jaw muscles. Stretching these muscles can help reduce the pain and realign the TMJ, and two TMJ physical therapy exercises in particular can help with these goals.
1. Temporalis muscle stretch
The temporalis muscle is one of the muscles that allows you to crush and grind food between your molars. This muscle is located on the side of the head, and it runs behind and in front of the ears. When this muscle is too tight, it can pull on the TMJ and cause misalignment and pain. Physical therapists may recommend a TMJ physical therapy exercise called the temporalis muscle stretch to reduce tightness in this muscle.
To begin stretching both temporalis muscles, you’ll want to sit in a stable chair, and you should make sure you’re sitting up straight with good head and neck posture. Next, you’ll place the heels of your hands on your head just in front of your ears. From this starting position, slowly open your mouth as wide as you can. At the same time, you should push upward gently on the temporalis muscle with the heels of your hands. You should try to hold this stretch for about three seconds, and then you’ll want to return to the starting position. Your goal should be to complete a total of 10 repetitions of this stretch.
2. Masseter muscle stretch
Another muscle that can benefit from TMJ physical therapy exercises is the masseter muscle. The masseter is located right in front of the TMJ between the cheekbone and lower jaw, and it helps pull the lower jaw up as you chew. Excess tension in this muscle can lead to TMJ dysfunction, and the masseter muscle stretch is an exercise your therapist can use to decrease this tension.
Get into the starting position for this stretch by sitting with good posture in a stable chair. You’ll also need to locate the masseter muscles by clenching your jaw, and this will allow you to place the heels of your hands on these muscles. Once in the starting position, you should open your jaw slowly while pushing up on the masseter muscles with your hands. At first, you might not be able to open your jaw fully without feeling pain, and this is OK. Just open it as far as you’re able to. After holding the stretch for about three seconds, slowly return to the starting position and then continue to repeat the stretch until you’ve done 10 repetitions.
Find more TMJ physical therapy exercises and other helpful treatments at Armor Physical Therapy
At Armor Physical Therapy, TMJ physical therapy exercises are just one tool we can use to help treat your TMJ dysfunction. We offer free screenings that are designed to help us learn how your condition is affecting you. Gathering this information then allows us to build you a personalized treatment plan for you, which can include beneficial therapy techniques like:
- Therapeutic exercises
- Myofascial release
- Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM)
- Manual therapy
Are you ready to take the next step to start getting our help for your TMJ pain? Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.