The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect your jawbone to your skull and are responsible for facilitating talking, swallowing, and chewing of stuff. Disorders in the TMJ happen when there’s a problem with your jaw muscles and joints due to an injury to the jaw, overuse, or due to inflammation like as with arthritis. These TMJ exercises and stretches are the best ones to help you get relief from jaw pain.
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Best TMJ Exercises & Stretches
The following exercises will help you achieve better health of your TMJ. Use this guide to practice these exercises and stretches, and if any is unclear to you (we will try to be as candid as possible), please talk to your doctor or dentist for guidance.
1. Use the pads of your fingers to massage your temporal (temporalis) muscles
The temporal muscles can be felt by clenching your jaw with your fingers, and you will feel it popping just below your fingertips.
Massage the area nicely for about 30 seconds. It’s better to have a clock in front of you to make sure that you go the full length of 30 seconds.
Use both clockwise and counterclockwise movements to give the area full attention. Soon enough, you will realize how good it feels.
After 30 seconds, change to the flat part of your hands and place it on the temporal muscle giving it an upward push as you open your mouth. Repeat this about 5-10 times.
2. Massage your masseter muscles
The masseter muscles are just inside your jaws. For this, again, use the pads of your fingers to massage it about 15 times in a clockwise direction. Repeat the same frequency in the counterclockwise direction.
Once this round is done, use the palm of your hand and put it on top of the masseter muscles as you open your mouth.
Drag the masseter muscles down with the jaw inferiorly. Repeat this about 5-10 minutes.
Follow it up with the same combination, but this time, move up superiorly about 5-10 times.
By this time, you should be feeling pretty good. Next, we move on to the interior side. This next phase requires that you thoroughly clean your hands as you will be using your fingers inside your mouth.
3. Rough spreading of the upper palette
In this exercise, you will use the soft part of your thumbs (place your thumbs as if you are giving a thumbs up and bring both thumbs together).
Place your thumbs onto the upper hard pallet and massage the pallet towards your teeth.
Make sure your right and left thumbs are moving towards the right and left teeth, respectively. Repeat this 5-10 times.
4. Clenching and pulling of the masseter muscles using the pointer finger and your thumb
For this exercise, you’ll use your pointing finger. Place it inside your cheek just in front of your teeth (so you don’t bite yourself).
Grab the masseter muscles with this finger and your thumb placed on the outside.
Pull the masseter muscles down in repeated sessions of up to 5-10 times.
5. Assisted Opening of the Jaw
Place all your fingers in front of your chin with the thumbs tucked below your chin and open your jaw. Ensure you are not moving your head down so that your mouth (and jaw) opens fully.
Repeat this about 5-10 times.
6. Resisted opening of the jaw
In this part, we will literally try to resist the jaws from opening using our palms placed on the chins.
This procedure requires that you support your chin using your palms as you open the jaws. Just apply enough pressure but make you still can open your jaws fully. Repeat this about 5-10 times.
7. Myofascial release massage of the masseters and temporalis muscles
For this technique, you may need to oil the pads of your fingertips and palms of your hand, so you don’t experience uncomfortable friction as you massage the masseters and the temporalis muscles.
Using the pads of your fingers
Now, place the pads of your fingers just at the level of your jaws (at the mandibular level) and massage the masseters muscles moving up the jaw slowly. Repeat this about 5-10 times.
Once you are done with the masseters, head over to the temporalis muscles and repeat the massage upwards slowly. Again, repeat this about 5-10 times or until you start experiencing some relief.
Change the direction to downwards both for the masseters and the temporalis muscles. Make sure you are working on the jaw muscles and not the cheek muscles, which are close to the mouth and nose.
These two sets- for the masseters and the temporalis, could also help with mild headaches.
Using the knuckles
Instead of using the pads of your fingers, we will use the knuckles to massage the masseters muscles. This massage must be done across the fiber of the muscles. This means you will be messaging the masseters from just below the ear towards the front.
Repeat the same for the temporalis muscles using the knuckles. Make sure the movement is across the muscle fibers.
8. Myofascial release massage of the masseters and temporalis muscles, with the jaw held down in an open position.
In this exercise, we are going to start with the masseters and then the temporalis.
Hold your chin (jaw) down with the mouth slightly opened and massage the masseters muscles using the knuckles as described above. Do this for about 30-60 seconds.
Then head to the temporalis with the mouth in an open position and one of your hands holding your chin. Massage the temporalis muscles in a near-circular motion making sure you are moving across the muscles.
Again, repeat this for about 30-60 seconds.
9. Stretching Exercises
It’s been established that a gentle stretch of the jaw and joint areas can help relieve pain in the TMJ joint and keep the pain away from coming back.
One way of achieving this is to press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Slowly try opening your mouth as wide as possible, watching out for the process not to become painful. If there’s pain, stop the process and retry later.
Other means of stretching the jaws involve moving the jaw on its own as much as you can without feeling any discomfort. For example:
- Relax your jaw as much as possible while keeping your mouth closed. Slowly open your mouth as wide as possible while keeping your teeth slightly apart and looking up with your eyes. Keep your mouth open for about 20-30 seconds and then slowly close it.
- Upon closing your mouth, try moving your jaw to the right side while looking to the left with your eyes (avoid turning your neck or head). Keep this position for about 20-30 seconds and then bring it to the center again. Repeat the same process, but this time in the opposite direction.
What Can TMJ Exercises Help You Achieve?
TMJ exercises help relieve pain, and literally millions of people suffering from TMJ pain have used these techniques to:
- Stretch the jaw when need be
- Strengthen jaw muscles
- Help improve jaw mobility.
- Help promote jaw healing.
- Help relax your jaw
If you have pain in your TMJ area and not sure how to deal with it, then these best TMJ exercises and stretches to relieve jaw pain/disorder will surely come in handy for you.
Try out each exercise and stretch technique keenly following the process to the end and also for the duration indicated.
Use the specially designed pillows for night time relief for bruxism, TMJD and jaw clenching. They help to provide support and alignment to your jaw, neck, and shoulders. We recommend the highly rated EnVy TMJ Relief Pillow for TMJD and Jaw Pain. Or check out our best pillow for jaw clenching and TMJ article.