Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – 9 Exercises for TMJ Pain Relief

TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder is characterized by mild pain in the jaw and the muscles involved in its movement. It is often not serious and last for a short period. In some case, TMJ disorder becomes severe and long-lasting. TMJ disorders can also be self-cured by including following exercises in daily life.

Here is some more information on the symptoms, causes, and the exercises which will help in reducing the pain.


What is the temporomandibular joint?

Temporomandibular joint or TMJ joint is a joint connecting the mandible (lower jaw) and the temporal bone (side of the skull) located on each side of the jaw bone.

This joint allows the movement of upper and lower jaw, both up and down and side to side. Proper functioning of TMJ is very vital, as it is associated with our day to day activities like eating, speaking and yawning, etc.

Dysfunction may lead to pain and discomfort in the jaw joints, and the muscles involve in jaw movements.

In most cases, the pain lasts for a short period and can be treated by nonsurgical or exercises of TMJ.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder

TMJ disorder is characterized by severe pain and discomfort in the movements of the jaw. Depending on the cause it can be temporary or last for years together.

It might either affect both or any sides of your face. Women are at higher risk than men due to various hormonal and structural reasons. It is most common among the people of age between 20 to 40. Following are the few symptoms –

  • Pain or tenderness of the jaw
  • Aching facial pain
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Pain around the ear spreading to the cheeks
  • Difficulty in opening and closing of the mouth
  • Discomfort in movements of the jaw
  • Unusual popping and clicking sounds occur while eating, talking or simply opening the mouth.
  • Buzzing, ringing or numbness in the ears can occur alongside earaches.
  • Limited movement of mouth from being opened fully.

Causes of TMJ disorder

There is no specific cause for TMJ pain. Dentists believe that the symptoms arise from a problem with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the TMJ.

Following are few factors causing TMJ pain or disorder –

  • Stress – People often have a habit of grinding or clenching of teeth while they deal with strong emotions like anger or hypertension. Therefore, people leading a stressful life are more prone to TMJ disorder.
  • Medical conditions – Arthritis is swelling and pain in the joints of the body. Women are more prone to arthritis.
  • Hormones – A person who undergoes hormone replacement therapy and takes oral contraceptive are at higher risk of TMJ joints.
  • Dislocation – Dislocation of the disk that holds the two joints together in TMJ cause severe pain in TMJ and must be treated surgically.
  • Physical injury to the TMJ
  • Vigorous movement of the jaw
  • Clenching of teeth in sleep
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Dental surgeries
  • Infections
  • Inheritance
  • Hormonal changes

Exercises for TMJ pain relieve

A recent study shows that performing exercises increases mouth opening range more than using a mouth guard.

Here are the few exercises which are suggested by American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (1) and Royal Surrey County Hospital which may help you get relief from the TMJ pain.

Relaxed jaw exercise

  • Place tip of your tongue right behind the two front teeth.
  • Open and close your mouth slowly without stressing for 5-10 times
  • It helps in relaxing jaw muscles

Goldfish exercise (partial opening)

  • Place the tongue on the roof of your mouth
  • Open and close your jaw for six times

Goldfish exercise (complete opening)

  • Place tongue on the roof of your mouth
  • Open your jaw as much as you can.

Chin Tucks

  • Keep your back or posture straight
  • Pull your chin straight back for three seconds and repeat it for ten times

Resisting opening of the mouth

  • Put your thumb or finger underneath your tongue
  • Open your mouth slowly, pushing gently against your chin for resistance
  • Hold it for three seconds and then close your mouth slowly

The resisting closing of your mouth

  • Hold your chin and try to open and close the mouth with resistance.
  • Repeat it for 3 to 6 seconds

Tongue up

  • Place tongue on the roof of the mouth
  • Slowly open and close your mouth

Side to side jaw movement

  • Put ¼ inch clean object or a popsicle stick between your front teeth, and slowly move your jaw from side to side
  • Increase the thickness of the object as the exercise becomes easier

Forward jaw movement

  • Put ¼ object between your front teeth.
  • Move your bottom jaw forward so your

Massage techniques for instant relief from TMJ pain

Mild facial exercise

  • Put your fingers on both the sides of the lower jaw
  • Gently push it upwards rolling the facial skin along
  • Repeat the same on the sides of the head to get relief from a headache caused by TMJ

Fingertips technique

  • Put your three fingers on the arch of the cheekbone
  • Slowly push the muscle downwards with the help of fingers
  • Same to be repeated on the sides of the head

Knuckle technique

  • Close your palms
  • Move your knuckles in a circular motion along the muscles of cheeks.
  • Repeat the same on the sides of the head

Open mouth technique

  • Relax your face muscles
  • Open your mouth and place one hand on the chin
  • Roll your knuckle around the cheek muscles

All this above technique can be done twice a day or whenever the pain arises. Each exercise should be done for 30 seconds daily.

Conventional treatments


  • NSAIDS and Anti analgesic – for pain relieve and swelling
  • Ibuprofen or Naproxen(Advil, Motrin IB)
  • Antidepressants
  • Amitriptyline
  • Splints and night guard- these mouthpieces fit over the upper and lower teeth, so they don’t come in contact. They lessen the effect of bruxism and correct your bite by putting your teeth in a correction position.
  • One can also use crowns, bridges or braces to balance the biting surfaces of teeth and correct the bite problem.

Advanced technical treatments

  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS)

Use of low-level electrical currents for pain relief relaxing joint and facial muscles

  • Arthrocentesis

This therapy involves the insertion of small needles into the joint and washes it out. This procedure is used to remove debris and inflammatory byproducts.

  • Injections

Injection of corticosteroid into the jaw muscles used for chewing may relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders.

  • Arthroscopy

This procedure involves the removal of inflamed tissue or realigns the disc present between the TMJ. (4)


  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Avoid biting nails and lower lips
  • Avoid vigorous movement of the jaw
  • Practice good body posture
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush
  • Rinse your mouth daily with antiseptic mouthwash

Final thoughts

TMJ disorder is a mild condition which makes us face difficulty or pain in the movements of the jaw which with the help of above mention exercises can be treated.


Initially, when you start doing exercise, you may feel pain, but it should be tolerable and gradually improves.

In some cases, the TMJ disorder takes a serious turn leaving us in severe and unbearable pain, in such condition one must make an appointment with the doctor.


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