By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
TMJ is a very painful condition of the joint that connects the jaw bone to the head. It’s important to seek medical counseling for this condition. Your physician or dentist may refer you to a physical therapist for individualized evaluation and treatment that may include exercises.
There is, however, a simple postural adjustment that you may find helpful. Let’s take a look at what happens mechanically in the temporomandibular joint.
Any activity that requires you to look down for long periods of time, such as desk work or even cooking and cleaning, can produce a chronic forward head position, which can in turn lead to pain and grinding in the jaw joints, abnormal bite, and headaches.
The mal-alignment of the vertebrae (bones that make up the spinal column) of the neck caused by the abnormal forward head posture affects the bones themselves, the muscles of the neck, and sometimes the nerves that supply the arms. When the head is in the forward position, the muscles must work harder to hold it up against the pull of gravity. It is as though your head weighs 30 pounds rather than 10 pounds.
Here is a simple exercise that can help correct the forward head posture.
1. Sit as tall as you can.
2. Touch your chin with the fingertips of 1 hand.
3. Pull your chin straight back away from your hand as though it were on a set of railroad tracks.
4. Hold for 3 seconds, then relax and repeat 5 times.
As you practice performing this exercise, notice how it decreases the curve in the neck and stretches and lengthens the muscles on the back of your neck. It is also helpful to notice how it changes the alignment of your lower teeth in relationship to you upper teeth.
Over time and with practice, this simple exercise will help improve your overall posture, eliminate neck pain and strain, and align your TMJ.