Best Exercises for TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint)

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge-like bone that connects your jaw and your skull. You can feel it moving by pressing your index fingers to your cheeks and opening and closing your mouth. This is a sensitive bone structure that can sometimes become unaligned. 

TMJ conditions reveal themselves in a number of different symptoms, not all of which may be present at once. Hearing a clicking or popping noise when you chew is one of the most common symptoms. Others may feel pain and tenderness along the jaw, sometimes reaching as far as the ear. This pain may also cause swelling in some people. 

People with discomfort caused by TMJ can use the exercises listed here. Ease into these exercises and try them out slowly. Pay careful attention if any pain arises.

Exercises to Help TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint)

These exercises are intended to gradually restore your jaw’s range of motion and reduce any discomfort caused by TMJ. They primarily target the jawbone at the base of the skull, but also the throat and neck muscles more broadly. Be cautious and pace yourself as you begin. 

Goldfish Exercise 

This exercise helps you align the jawbone while you chew. 

Step 1: Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. 

Step 2: Now place one index finger onto the left TMJ and another index finger on your chin. 

Step 3: Drop your chin, applying light pressure with each finger and keeping the tongue to the roof of the mouth. Repeat this exercise for the right TMJ. 

Try this exercise a total of six times, six times daily. 

Mandibular Stabilization Exercise

This exercise similarly tries to align the jawbone and improve its range of motion over time. 

Step 1: Start with the jaw in a neutral, relaxed position. 

Step 2: Hold your thumb to the base of the jaw, just below the chin, and apply gentle pressure as you open your mouth. 

Step 3: Repeat the motion, moving your thumb to the left and right sides of the jaw respectively.

Try this exercise at least five times, five times daily. 

Continued

Cervical Retraction “Chin Tucks”

The goal of this exercise is to strengthen the cervical muscles and improve the alignment of the head and spine. 

Step 1: Start from a standing position with your shoulders back and chest lifted up. 

Step 2: Bring your head straight back, tucking in your chin as you do so. 

Step 3: Keep your head straight throughout this motion. 

Hold this motion for three seconds at a time and repeat up to 10 times. 

Side-to-Side Jaw Exercise

For this exercise, you will need a small object, like a flat wooden stick. It will work to target the jaw’s range of motion. 

Step 1: Place a clean wooden stick, like a craft stick, in your mouth, biting it softly between your top and bottom teeth. 

Step 2: Now begin shifting your jaw from side to side without loosening your bite on the stick. 

Step 3: Shift your bottom jaw forward and back, still keeping your teeth clenched. 

Try this exercise at least once a day and use a thicker stick if it gets too easy for you.

Tongue Up Exercise

This easy exercise targets the jaw muscles and also helps improve their range of motion. 

Step 1: From a seating or standing position, gently touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. 

Step 2: Now, without letting your tongue drop, extend your jaw as far down as you can. 

Step 3: Still without moving your tongue, close your jaw and then open it again. 

Repeat this chewing motion at least 10 times, three times a day. 

Safety Considerations

None of these exercises should cause pain. If you experience pain while doing them, either readjust your intensity or stop the exercise right away. Use an icepack if you feel soreness, but consult with your doctor if you feel any pain that lasts more than a few hours.

The point of these TMJ exercises is gradual improvement. You won’t feel better right away, but over the course of time, you should be able to start relaxing and aligning your jaw little by little. Since none of these exercises are labor-intensive, they can easily be done while engaged in some other activity, like using the internet or reading. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Family Physician: “Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Stubborn TMJ Pain? Try Trigger Point Massage and Jaw Exercises.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.”

Mayo Clinic: “TMJ Disorders.”

Royal Surrey County Hospital: “Physiotherapy Management of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain.”

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