Stress and Jaw Pain
Jaw pain can be difficult to deal with unless you seek out professional treatment but there are some steps you can take on your own if your jaw pain is stress related! Stress is one of the biggest culprits that cause jaw pain. Many of us do not even realize that we are stressed and possibly clenching our teeth, especially during sleep, which can apply undue strain on the temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles. Stress is how the body reacts to harmful situations but persistent stress can present physical problems.
If you wake up with a sore jaw, muscle pain, tooth pain, or even a headache, you are likely clenching and grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist can provide a night guard for you to wear while you sleep which can help ease the pressure applied to your teeth during sleeping hours.
Additionally, managing your stress can help relieve symptoms associated with clenching. You might consider a visit to your internist to see if an anti-anxiety medication would help you on a long-term basis. Steps that you can take on your own to reduce stress in your life include:
Identify your stressors: For some, this may involve a daily journal in which they are able to note at what time of day they feel stressed or anxious, which can be especially helpful to identify a stressor that is repeated on a regular basis.
Avoid stressors: If there is any way that you can avoid certain situations or persons that cause you to have a negative reaction, do your best to look out for yourself and avoid that stressor. If you become overwhelmed with time management or too much on your plate, learn to say “no” when you need to and set time goals for priority tasks.
Take control: If you have a stressor that you cannot avoid, take a breath and mindfully choose your response. If you are unable to control a situation that causes you stress, try to let it go and avoid getting focused on your anger or irritation at that stressor.
Improve your lifestyle: Exercise is not only good for physical well-being but it is incredibly beneficial to mental well-being. Something as simple as taking a walk after dinner can greatly boost your endorphins and lighten your mood. Patients with high stress levels also benefit from a regular sleep schedule, getting at least eight hours each night.
In addition to working in a bit of light exercise and getting regular sleep, taking up yoga or meditation can help calm your mind and help you take a moment to stop thinking about the million and one things you have to do tomorrow!
If you have tried some of these steps and your jaw pain persists, your dentist can refer you to a physical therapist or pain clinic to address your discomfort. Massage, trigger point therapy, dry needling, and ultrasound are all great treatments for TMJ issues. They can help to reduce headaches, neck and facial pain as well as improve range of motion and help get you back to a comfortable normal!