Understanding The TMJ
The TMJ is a ball-and-socket joint located where the upper and lower jaws meet.You have one joint on each side of your mouth. These joints are part of a large group of muscles, ligaments, and bones that work together as a system.
When the System Works
When the system is healthy, you can talk, chew, and even yawn in comfort. Muscles contract and relax to open and close the joint. The disk absorbs pressure in the joint. It also allows the jaws to open and close smoothly. Ligaments connect the jawbones to the skull. They also support the joint.
Your doctor may suggest medication to treat TMJ. For your safety, tell your doctor if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Also mention any herbs or supplements you are using. Then, ask about your new medication. What are its risks or side effects? How should it be taken?
Types of Medications
Some medications used to treat TMJ are by prescription only. Others are available over-the-counter. The medication type and dosage will depend on the problem you have. Common medications used to treat TMJ are described below.
Anti-Inflammatories and Analgesics
These medications are used to treat pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Anti-inflammatories reduce swelling, heat, redness, and pain. They also help restore function. Analgesics reduce pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAlDs) relieve inflammation as well as pain.
These medications are often used to treat myofascial pain. Muscle relaxants help ease muscle tension. This reduces pressure on the TMJ from tight jaw muscles.
These medications can be used to reduce pain or bruxism. At higher dosages, these medications are used to treat depression. Given at low dosages, antidepressants help relieve TMJ symptoms. They can reduce muscle pain. They also raise the level of serotonin, a body chemical that improves sleep. This in turn can decrease bruxism during the night.
Tips for Life
Some lifestyle changes are only needed while you're healing. But other changes can become healthy lifelong habits. Start by managing your stress and staying active. These changes are good for your TMJ. They are also healthy for your body.
Stress is a key factor in TMJ. Stress can cause you to clench your muscles or grind your teeth. It can also affect your sleep, reducing your body's ability to heal.
Here are a few tips to manage stress:
Learn ways to relax. Try listening to music or gently stretching. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Or, close your eyes and imagine a place or object that is calming.
Get plenty of rest and sleep.
Set goals you know you can attain.
Make time for people and things you enjoy.
Ask for help if you need it. Friends and family can run errands and cook meals for you. They can also join you for walks or other types of exercise.
Activity helps the body in many ways. It helps you stay looser and more relaxed. It also helps keep muscles and tissues conditioned. That way you can heal faster and make re-injury less likely.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Talk to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
Always warm up and stretch before activity. This helps prevent injury.
Try walking or swimming. These activities are easy on your joints. They also benefit your heart and lungs.
Try yoga or Tai Chi. These are relaxing activities known for reducing stress.
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