Is Stress Causing Your TMJ Disorder?

If you’ve been chowing down on giant steaks every night, your jaw may be sore from all the chewing. The solution to this problem is pretty clear: Have a salad now and then!

If, however, you aren’t eating that many steaks yet you are experiencing pain on either side of your head where your jawbone meets your skull, you may be suffering from TMJ disorder. If this is the case, the specialists at Choice Pain and Rehabilitation Center in the Maryland and Washington DC-area are eager to help you regain your normal life without pain.

Until you can make an appointment, here are a few facts about TMJ, along with some possible treatments (hint: reducing stress in your life is a huge factor).

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the point where your jawbone meets your skull. This joint lets you chew, talk, yawn, sing, etc. If you are experiencing pain here, you may have a TMJ disorder. Other symptoms of the disorder include jaw tenderness, jaw locking, headaches, pain in your face, difficulty chewing, and even a clicking sound when you open your mouth.

Because this joint functions in several ways (it allows both a hinge motion and a sliding motion) and is used constantly, it is one of the more complex joints in the body. The joint includes a complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones, so there are several things that can go wrong, including cartilage damage, a disc out of alignment, trauma from a blow to the head, and strain from teeth grinding.

What causes TMJ disorder?

If you come to Choice Pain and Rehabilitation Center for help with jaw pain, doctors will do a full workup, including a physical exam and X-rays or MRIs, if necessary. If the cause is obvious (such as a cartilage issue), they will begin treatment.

In some cases, though, there is no one obvious physical cause; it could be that stress is playing a large role in your pain. If you are under high levels of stress, you may be unconsciously clenching your jaw throughout the day or grinding your teeth while you sleep. These actions can add strain and pressure to your jaw, which can eventually pull it out of alignment. Too much tension on your jaw can even lead to lockjaw, a condition in which muscle spasms prevent you from opening your mouth very wide. 

Treating stress-induced TMJ disorder

If your TMJ disorder is indeed caused by stress, you can control it in several ways. First, be aware of habits like clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Building your awareness will help you stop these kinds of actions. You should also try to chew less (avoid tough, sticky foods), and massaging your jaw and facial area can help as well. Your doctor can also give you a nightguard to keep you from grinding your teeth while you sleep.

Finally, think about how to reduce the stress in your life. Whether you need to make some lifestyle changes or see a counselor to discuss how to deal with issues in your life, getting to the root cause of your stress can be a huge help.

As you try to get relief from your jaw pain, feel free to call the expert team at Choice Pain and Rehabilitation Center to set up an appointment. They know exactly how to treat TMJ disorders, and they will help you find the relief you need!

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