Temporomandibular joint pain, more commonly known as jaw pain, is experienced by more people than you might think. Studies have shown that TMJ is the second most common musculoskeletal pain, only next to pains in the lower back. It is pain that radiates on the jaw joint, the muscles that control its movement, on the face, and around the ear. A combination of factors such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury could be the cause of such pain but further studies are still being made to pin-point the exact cause. Moreover, several daily habits that might seem harmless can also aggravate discomfort on the jaw. Keep reading to know more about these habits and how to effectively avoid doing them.
Lack of sleep.
Statistics say that around 62% of adults don’t get adequate sleep. Trouble getting enough rest is deeply associated with trouble concentrating, gaps in memory, a weaker immune system, and mood swings. Risk for more serious health concerns such as heart failure, diabetes, and stroke are also traced back to lack of sleep.
A commonly overlooked effect of sleep deprivation is jaw pain. Experts believe that lack of sleep increases inflammation on the joints. Additionally, fatigue and stress causes tension on muscles in the body, including those on the jaw. While the exact cause is still being researched, tension is also linked to bruxism or teeth grinding, one of the most common causes of jaw pain.
Having bad posture can cause a ripple-effect that ends in TMJ. Misalignment in the spine can lead to forward head posture. Having the head, neck, and shoulder in this position tenses the jaw, causing dull aches. Maintain proper standing and sitting posture to relieve these aches. Quick stretches can also help loosen tensions in the muscles and the spine.
Biting the fingernails.
Overuse of muscles in the jaw caused by nail-biting can cause soreness. Studies have shown that nail-biters are also more prone to bruxism. One recommendation to help stop this habit is to regularly clip the nails short or to apply specialty nail polish with a bitter taste.
Feelings of stress and anxiety are the most common reasons for unconscious jaw clenching. While it’s harder to notice the habit right away, regularly doing jaw exercises can help alleviate the aches from soreness in the jaw. Gentle massages around the area of the jaw and the ear can aid in easing the pain as well. If the pain becomes more serious, set a consultation with a doctor to get recommendations for a night guard or a bite splint.
Chewing on hard food.
Hard food can overwork the muscles on the jaw and possibly damage the teeth. Incorporate softer food on your diet such as eggs, yogurt, and tofu for well-balanced nutrition and ease on your jaw muscles.
TMJ is a condition that is commonly left untreated but you don’t have to suffer needlessly. Simple adjustments in habits and lifestyle should be able to soothe aches in the jaw. For quick relief, you can take over-the-counter pain medication but if the pain starts to become unmanageable and chronic, consult your doctor for a more thorough assessment.