Treat TMJ Effectively With Natural Remedies

Updated on March 4th, 2020
how to treat tmj

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joints are the jaw muscles that are responsible for the movement of your jaw. These muscles and joints work together to perform functions like chewing, swallowing and talking. They also manage the backward, forward, and side movement of the lower jaw.

TMJ disorder or TMD can cause pain and discomfort in the movement of the jaw.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, USA(1) claims that the TMJ disorder is more prevalent in younger persons.

Causes of TMJ

Listed below are the possible common causes of TMJ

  • Cartilage damage because of arthritis.
  • Dislocation of the jaw.
  • Injury because of a blow or impact to the jaw.
  • Misalignment of the tooth and jaw.
  • Stress and teeth grinding.

Symptoms of TMJ

Diagnosis is important before we move forward with any treatment. Refer to the symptoms of TMJ disorder under

  • Pain in the jaw, mouth, or in and around the ear.
  • Difficulty in chewing.
  • Toothache.
  • The crackling of the joints.
  • Tenderness and soreness in the jaw joints.
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw.
  • Joint locking Difficulty in opening and closing the mouth.

Diagnosis

There are no particular tests that are run to detect TMJ. Your doctor will do a physical exam, and if all or most of the above symptoms exist, then he will prescribe the right treatment for TMJ to you. Most often, this disorder can be treated at home with self-care and remedies that are discussed under.

TMJ can be cured with self-care at home. This includes home remedies such as exercises, yoga, diet modifications, herb application or intake, and dietary supplements. We will discuss each of them in detail.

How to Treat TMJ Using Natural Remedies

CURE 1: Exercise and Physiotherapy

1. Jaw Exercise

  • Place your tongue behind your upper front teeth.
  • Bring your teeth apart gently relaxing the jaw muscles.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

2. Goldfish Exercises

  • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and place your index finger on your chin.
  • Place the other index finger on your TMJ.
  • Gently slide your jaw open halfway and close.
  • Do 5 sets of 6.
  • The same exercise can be done by gently opening your jaw fully and sliding it back.

Note Do remember not to exert too much pressure or be harsh with the movements. It may end up aggravating the pain and discomfort.

[Read: Exercises for TMJ]

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CURE 2: Diet Modifications

  • Eat softer foods.
  • Avoid biting into hard or chewy foods.
  • Avoid fried food and caffeine as this may increase the inflammation.

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CURE 3: Yoga

Yoga is an ascetic discipline that includes breathing exercises, meditation, and certain body postures that help with a better lifestyle. Yoga originated in ancient India and is widely practised the world over.

There are some yoga exercises that may help with TMJ. The same are listed below

1. Vamping pose

  • Sit straight on a chair or bench and cup the base of your skull with your right hand.
  • Slightly lengthen the back of your neck.
  • Extend your left arm out and turn your head gently to the left.
  • Hold for 3 breaths and repeat 5 times.
  • Do the same exercise on the other side.

2. Downward facing cobra

  • Lie on your stomach with your inner thighs together.
  • Lift your head slightly such that the chin is tucked and the upper back is extended a little.
  • Rest the arms along the sides with the palms facing inward.
  • On an inhale, keep your gaze down and the back of your neck long.
  • Lift your chest away from the floor.
  • On an exhale, release and go back to the start position.
  • Do 2 sets of 5 each.

3. Unlocking the jaw

  • Sit straight on a chair and place a fist on your TMJ.
  • Move your head towards the fist without moving your hand, engaging the muscle in that side of the neck.
  • Then, slowly shift the action to the jaw itself.
  • Press the jaw towards the fist and hold it for one or two breaths.
  • Remember to be gentle with the pressure from the fist or you could end up with a more inflamed jaw.
  • Repeat this 5 times.

 4. Neck strengthener

  • Lace the fingers of both your hands behind your neck at the base of your skull.
  • Gently push your head into your palm and hold for 2-3 breaths.
  • Now, move the head to the left and press it into your palms. Hold for 2-3 breaths.
  • Repeat the same on the right side.
  • Do 2 sets of 5 each.

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CURE 4: Herbs

1. Ginger

benefits of ginger
Image:ShutterStock

Why use?

Traditionally ginger has been used for pain and inflammation relief apart from its culinary uses. It contains gingerols, shogaols, and paradols that are active constituents for anti-inflammation. In TMJ because of excessive clenching, the muscles are inflamed, and ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with that.

How to use?

You can either place a piece of cut ginger in the mouth near the affected side or apply the juice topically. You can continue to do this till you feel better.

2. Mullein

Why use?

The mullein blossom oil helps with the earache during TMJ because of its analgesic properties.

How to use?

Put 2-3 drops of this oil in both your ears and lay still for it to be absorbed once every night till the ear pain goes away.

[Read: Home Remedies to Ease TMJ Pain]

3. Blue vervain

Why use?

Blue vervain is a herb that is known to relieve stress and anxiety.

How to use?

Regular consumption of 3-4 drops of tincture twice a day, made from either the flower, leaves and roots can help with the nerve stress in the jaw area. Continue taking this till the pain subsides.

4. Agrimony

Why use?

Agrimony(1) is a perennial plant with erect stem and many small five petals yellow flowers. A tincture made from these flowers tastes like raspberry leaves. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties amongst the many other properties.

How to use?

The juices from its flowers can be applied topically to the affected area twice every day until the inflamed muscles feel better.

[Read: Physiotherapy for TMJ Pain]

5. Pleurisy Root or Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed
Image:ShutterStock

Why use?

This plant helps produce more synovial fluids in the joints that help ease the tension in the joints and relieve the pain. It is also an excellent relaxant.

How to use?

The roots can be used dried or cooked and as a tincture or applied topically. Any of the methods, whether consumption or topical application, should be done twice a day for a few days till the pain has calmed down.

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CURE 5: Essential oils

Essential oils are concentrated liquids derived from plant compounds. They have been used in aromatherapy to assist with the healing of various ailments and also for relaxation. We will see below the effects of certain essential oils on TMJ disorder.

1. Peppermint

Why use?

Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help with the inflammation caused because of excessive clenching.

How to use?

Mix the oil with a carrier oil and apply it directly over the affected area. Do it once a day every day until you feel better.

2. Lavender

Why use?

Lavender oil is used for stress relief. If you have continuous pain and discomfort in a certain part of your body, it is sure to stress your other body parts. Lavender oil helps with distressing.

How to use?

Put 5-6 drops of the oil in your hot bath and soak in it for 20 mins. Do this twice a week for good results. Alternatively, you can also apply it directly on the jaw twice a day till you feel relieved of the pain.

3. Eucalyptus and camphor

to cure back pain with eucalyptus essential oil

Why use?

A study(2) shows that the application of eucalyptus and camphor oil topically or gently massaging it on the joint helps with the TMJ disorder pain. Both eucalyptus and camphor have soothing properties that ease the muscles and tension, giving relief.

How to use?

Mix 2-3 drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage your jaw for 10 mins. Do this once a day until the pain eases up.

4. Black Pepper

Why use?

TMJ disorder also extends to pain and stiffness in the neck. The analgesic property of black pepper essential oil helps with the muscle ache in the neck.

How to use?

Apply 2-3 drops of the black pepper oil mixed with any carrier oil to the affected area twice a day for better results.

5. Ginger

Why use?

Like the herb, a ginger essential oil also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties.

How to use?

Gently massage the injured area twice a day until you feel relief from the pain and discomfort.

All the above-mentioned oils can either be inhaled as a part of the aromatherapy or applied topically. But be careful to mix the essential oils with a carrier oil before any topical application.

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CURE 6: Supplements

1. Magnesium

Why use?

A study(3) showed that 22% of women under a survey that had TMJ were magnesium deficient. Magnesium helps relax the muscles. A combination of magnesium and calcium supplements are suggested by doctors for TMJ as they together assist in strengthening the muscles.

How to use?

You can include magnesium-rich foods in your daily diet like greens, avocado, kidney beans, bananas and nuts. You can also take a tablet of magnesium every day after consulting your doctor.

2. Omega 3

omega 3 rich food
Source: ShutterStock

Why use?

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients required for the healthy functioning of our body. It is found naturally in fish for non-vegetarians and certain types of nuts for vegetarians.

Omega 3 is known to inhibit the inflammation, pain and swelling in the jaw joint and is thus prescribed for TMJ disorders to aid the healing process.

How to use?

Many foods are rich in omega-3 can be taken in adequate quantities in the duration that the pain and discomfort lasts. Alternatively, you can also take omega-3 capsules as per your doctor’s prescription.

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3. Glucosamine

Why use?

Glucosamine has been found to lower the pain in the jaw and also assist in the rebuilding of the damaged cartilage. In some cases, it has been found to be as effective as ibuprofen and is suggested by physicians for TMJ disorders as a supplement.

How to use?

Add the tablets to your daily medications after discussing with your doctor. It is difficult to incorporate in your daily diet as it is mostly found in animal bones and bone marrow.

All the above supplements should not be taken without proper consultation with your doctor as they may interfere with your existing medications or medical conditions. Once the doctor gives the go-ahead, these are safe to consume.

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CURE 7: Alternative Therapies

Apart from all the home remedies discussed earlier, there are some alternative natural remedies for TMJ that are mentioned below are known to help with the condition.

1. Moist Heat

Why use?

Moist heat is a method that involves a wet heat source’s application to soothe and relax sore and tense muscles.

Various moist heat methods are hot water bags, hot steamed towels or hot baths. Out of all these, the hot water baths are the most beneficial as they also release the tension from your uninjured muscles that may have been under stress because of your injury.

A study(4) shows that the effect of moist heat is faster than dry heat applications as they penetrate into your muscles faster and deeper and ease the pain. This method also has reduced probability of skin irritation because the moisture keeps the tissue elasticity in check.

How to use?

The jaw is a sensitive area, and thus, moist heat is a better option. This can be done for 10 mins 5-6 times a day.

2. Ice

Why use?

Ice compresses can reduce inflammation and numb the pain. They should be applied in the initial days of the diagnosis and move on to heat therapy.

Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin as it can cause skin irritation. Wrap it in a clean cloth and then kindly press it over the affected area for relief.

How to use?

Do not apply an ice pack for more than 15 mins. Repeat is thrice a day.

3. Massage

massage
Image: ShutterStock

Why use?

The jaw can be gently massaged with essential oils to help in the healing process and also relaxing the muscles that become stiff. It will also increase the blood flow and reduce the tightness in muscles.

How to use?

You can massage the area near your ears in a circular motion with your mouth slightly open 2-3 times a day.

4. Acupuncture

Why use?

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted at various points in the body to relieve the pain.

Research(5) suggests that acupuncture is effective in reducing the pain and stiffness caused by TMD.

How to use?

The Acupuncturist will advise the course of treatment. Please note that acupuncture can not be self practices and needs expert opinion and intervention.

TMJ, once properly diagnosed, is a self curable disease. Its specific cause is unknown and can be a result of various other conditions such as arthritis. It can be effectively treated with the natural remedies discussed here, but we recommend a consultation with the doctor before trying these.

[Read: Acupuncture for TMJ Pain]


FAQs

1. What to do for TMJ?

Once your TMJ is diagnosed, it can be self-treated with the help of various exercises, yoga and alternative therapies. However, care should be taken to follow the instructions properly so that the problem does not aggravate.

2. Does TMJ require surgery?

Surgery is not the first line of treatment for TMJ disorder. The doctor first suggests exercise and physiotherapies, along with some supplements and anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the pain. Regularity in performing these exercises is most likely to improve your symptoms.

3. Can TMJ cause headache?

Not all headaches are caused by TMJ, but it a possible symptom of TMJ and if it is accompanied by other TMJ symptoms, then it’s most likely because of TMJ.

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