Introduction: Understanding the Link Between Stress and TMJ
TMJ is an acronym for 'Temporamandibular Joint Disorder', which is a chronic condition that causes constant pain in the jaw that often gets worse when eating, talking, laughing or otherwise using your mouth.
A whopping 15% of Americans live with some form of chronic pain in the neck, face or head and TMJ is the second most common cause of this after dental health issues. This is a widespread condition then and that's why so many people are looking for reliable TMJ treatment.
But many people will make the mistake of treating TMJ as a purely physical condition when in fact it is at least partly psychological in many instances. Read on to understand more about the psychological aspect of TMJ and how to address it for effective TMJ relief.
Is TMJ Psychosomatic?
A psychosomatic condition is a physical condition that is partly or wholly caused by psychological factors. An example of this would be Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is made worse by stress. The connection between hormones and bowel movements has long been known and it seems that irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition caused by this connection.
Likewise, it seems that TMJ is similarly correlated with stress. How? Because when we are stressed we unconsciously clench our jaws which strains the muscles and the joints involved. If you are an anxious person and someone who expresses your stress in this way, then it becomes increasingly likely that experiencing a lot of stress might lead to serious jaw pain.
This is then further worsened by sleep – at which point you may find yourself grinding your teeth which damages both them and your jaw.
Not every type of TMJ has a connection with stress though. Sometimes TMJ can be the result of physical trauma for instance, in which case TMJ treatment must be handled differently.
Stress and TMJ Treatment
The good news is that there are several effective forms of treatment for TMJ that is caused by stress. One example is CBT or 'Cognitive Behavioral Therapy' which is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment or 'talking cure' that teaches patients to better deal with their stress and to monitor and control their mood more effectively. Cognitive behavioral therapy mostly revolves around identifying the kinds of thoughts that exacerbate stress using 'mindfulness' and then replacing these with encouraging thoughts like 'there's no need worrying about it'. This is called 'cognitive restructuring' and many people find that it provides effective TMJ relief.
Another useful treatment is to use a splint or mouthguard. This will keep your teeth slightly open while you sleep which has several benefits. For starters this can alleviate jaw ache by putting your mouth into a more comfortable position but at the same time it can also prevent you from grinding your teeth while you sleep.
Finally, it can also be very useful to use supplements that contain muscle relaxants such as the highly regarded 'The TMJ Pill'. The TMJ Pill can help to relax muscles and prevent clenching and is highly effective when used in combination with CBT. At the same time, the supplement also contains analgesics (painkillers) which offer immediate TMJ pain relief, as well as anti-inflammatory properties and important nutrients that aid recovery. Many people find that The TMJ Pill actually results in a permanent cure eventually.
Note as well that you can also try to reduce stress in other ways. It may be that there are stressful things happening in your life that you can address by changing job or moving home. Focus more on yourself and see your TMJ as a sign that you need to take more care of your body.