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Jaw Pain and TMJ Stretches

These stretches for jaw pain and TMJ are effective and must be done gently at first. If your jaw hurts afterward, wait a day and do them again. Start with the unassisted stretches and move to the assisted ones as your body allows. After doing the jaw-opening stretches, if your throat feels sore or tight, or if it feels like there’s a lump in your throat, do the “anterior neck” stretches to loosen the muscles causing that sensation.

PART 1:

PROTRUSION, RETRUSION AND DEVIATION PROTRUSION:

PROTRUSION: With your tongue positioned behind your front teeth, your jaw relaxed and teeth apart enough that you can slip your tongue between them at the back molars, exhale and stick your lower jaw out forward (protrude) for a few seconds and then come back to your neutral relaxed position. Repeat this 10 times. When that is comfortable to do, you can go farther by assisting the stretch. Put your fingers at the back of your jaw bone behind your earlobe above the angle of the mandible. Protrude your jaw using the power of your own muscles, then gently push your jaw farther with your fingers while you continue to stretch actively for two seconds. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times.

RETRUSION: Now go the other way. With your jaw in the same position as in the protrusion stretch and your tongue resting in the floor of your mouth this time, draw your jaw back so it looks like you have an overbite. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, release to your neutral starting position and repeat 10 times. When that is comfortable, assist the stretch by pushing your jaw back, actively stretching and pushing simultaneously. Push with the fingers of both hands or try pushing with your chin fitting in the angle of your hand between the thumb and index finger. Open first, then exhale as you assist for two seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

DEVIATION PROTRUSION: With your tongue resting in the floor of your mouth and your teeth slightly apart, move your lower jaw bone out to the right as far as you can. Exhale and hold it for a few seconds, release to a relaxed neutral position and repeat 10 times. Do the same thing going to your left. When this is comfortable, assist the stretch by pushing your jaw to the right with your left hand. Be careful. Start slowly and be gentle. Exhale and actively stretch for two seconds, then release and repeat 10 times. Do the same thing to your left.

Supplement stretches with: heat therapy and muscle relaxants/anti-inflammatories

* Click HERE to download instructions as a PDF for printing.

PART 2:

OPENING TWO WAYS AND NECK STRETCHES

OPENING: This stretch is done two ways. The first is with the joint opening and closing like a hinge. The second is with joint unhinged and opening wider. Note the cautions.

For the first, position your tongue behind your front teeth. This will help keep the condyle of the mandible seated in the socket so the joint stays closed and acts like a hinge. Drop your chin downward toward your throat to open your mouth. Check to be sure your jaw is staying in place by placing your fingers over the joint. When open it should be flat. If it comes unhinged you will feel bumps press outward. Those bumps are the condyles of the mandible.

Once you understand where the jaw should be, you can relax your tongue during the stretch if you wish. So, open your jaw like a hinge, stretch it as far as you can. Exhale and hold for a few seconds. Close your jaw to relax the muscles and repeat 10 times. Once you can do this comfortably, you can assist the stretch by pressing down on your chin with the fingers of both hands or the angle between your thumb and hand. Open first, then exhale as you assist for two seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

OPENING WIDE: This is trickier, especially for those of you with one side that pops out. Start by relaxing your tongue into the floor of your mouth and protruding your jaw like an underbite. In that position with your jaw sticking out, open slowly and as wide as you can. Check your jaw position the whole time by placing your fingers at the joint to be sure both sides stay even. If you feel one side popping out, slowly deviate your jaw to the opposite side until both are aligned equally as you open.

When you are comfortable with this stretch, assist to open it farther by using your fingers or the angle at your thumb to press downward on your chin. Exhale as you actively stretch using the power of your own muscles, then assist for two seconds, release and repeat 10 times.

Because you are using the muscles under your chin and at the front of your throat to open your mouth, these muscles may cramp up or tighten so that you feel as if you’ve suddenly gotten a sore throat or have a lump in your throat.

STRETCH YOUR THROAT, THE MUSCLES UNDER YOUR CHIN AND THE FRONT OF YOUR NECK (anterior cervicals, suprahyoid, infrahyoid, digastric, platysma): In a seated position, lean slightly forward and stick your chin out (protrude your jaw), checking the position of your TMJ (temperomandibular joint) as above. Point your chin up toward the ceiling, tilting your head backward. Focus on pointing your chin up and be sure you are leaning forward to keep your head from falling back. It should just tilt at the base of your skull. Stretch for a few seconds, then lower your chin to relax the muscles. Repeat 10 times. To assist the stretch, go as far as you can using the power of your muscles, then press upward on your chin with the fingers of both hands. Exhale through your nose as you assist for two seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

TWO OTHER NECK STRETCHES that help are rotating in both directions and forward flexing your head to stretch the muscles at the base of your skull (suboccipitals). Both of these stretches also address some of the myofascial Trigger Points that refer pain into your jaw and behind your ear.

Supplement with: heat therapy and muscle relaxants/anti-inflammatory.

* Click HERE to download instructions as a PDF for printing.

 

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