Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ is a complicated thing to understand. Unlike something more defined like a broken leg, TMJ is an umbrella term used to describe the many complications patients may suffer as a result of a malfunctioning temporomandibular joint. While some patients may complain about jaw pain or muscle soreness, others may have frequent headaches or even tinnitus. Couple these varying symptoms with an underlying cause that is mostly disputed, and you can begin to understand the difficulties inherent in treating TMJ.
Many do agree, however, that stress and anxiety may be a factor, especially because it’s been known to exacerbate factors like bruxism, which leads some to consider whether stress relief could play a part in relieving TMJ symptoms.
TMJ and Stress
When you next find yourself in a stressful situation, get a read on your body. Are you clenching your jaw? This response to stress is incredibly common but can also be dangerous for your mouth. Often when too much stress is felt in the body during the day, it can carryover into your sleep. If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night to find that your jaw is sore, chances are you have bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding.
When done in excess, bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear and can also lead to TMJ.The temporomandibular joint was built to withstand a lot of pressure, and even regenerate tissue, but over a longer period of time, bruxism can cause ongoing damage the body is unable to heal.
How Can Meditation Treat TMJ?
While there are very few studies dealing specifically with meditation and TMJ symptoms, there are plenty that have found meditation to be an effective means for lowering stress and anxiety. In one study published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that meditation and other mindfulness practices such as yoga, positively impacted cortisol levels, anxiety, and stress. If you’re interested in starting your own mindfulness practice to help cope with stress, but don’t know where to start, there are several beginning exercises to explore, including an app which supports 10 minute daily exercises.
Alternative TMJ Treatment
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, TMJ can be incredibly painful, eating into your sleep, productivity, and probably contributing to your already stressful life — which can, of course, cause more symptoms. If you’re searching for alternative treatments for your TMJ, your dentist can help, and you should consider scheduling an appointment as soon as possible. TMJ can be a progressive disorder that worsens over time, causing even more problems in the future.
Your dentist can suggest several drug-free treatment options centered on eliminating the damage done by tooth grinding, and relaxing your jaw with the use of TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation). There are also custom-crafted mouthpieces worn during sleep, that can alleviate stress caused to the jaw.