Posture and TMJ Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Did you know that there is a relationship between posture and TMJ pain?
It’s so easy to forget about posture throughout the day. We get busy and tired. So our bodies start to fall out of alignment, many times without us even noticing. And if we’re not careful poor posture can cause several problems, including TMJ disorders.
Since there is a relationship between poor posture and TMJ pain, we often need to incorporate correcting your posture into your TMJ treatment plan. Depending on the extent of the damage done to your joint, posture alone may not completely cure your TMJ pain. But it will help make other treatments more effective.
Let’s take a look at the relationship between posture and TMJ pain.
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What is a TMJ Disorder?
First, let’s review what a TMJ disorder is.
The TMJ is your jaw joint. The TMJ makes it possible for you to open your mouth to eat and speak. You have a TMJ on each side of your mouth.
When there’s something wrong with your jaw joint we call that a TMJ disorder. The TMJ is like the other joints in your body. It can become damaged from injuries, overuse, or diseases like arthritis.
TMJ disorders can be very painful. Symptoms include:
- Jaw joint pain
- Clicking and popping noises in the joint
- Stiffness in the joint
TMJ disorders can also cause ear pain and headaches.
There are several different causes of TMJ disorders. Most of the time, eating hard crunchy food or an injury causes mild TMJ pain. Arthritis is another common cause of jaw joint pain. Stress can also cause TMJ pain because it often leads to teeth grinding and clenching, which put pressure on the joint.
Poor posture is another cause of TMJ pain that people might not always be aware of. Poor posture can be the main cause of TMJ pain. But for many patients, it simply exacerbates the pain they already have.
What is Posture?
Your body is designed to work as a system. Each part should function together. So, when something isn’t working the way it should, it affects the rest of your body.
Posture is an important part of this system. Posture refers to the alignment of your body. Good posture happens when your head is centered over your spine, your shoulders are back, and your spine is lengthened. This creates balance in your body. With good posture, your body is able to function properly.
What is the Relationship Between Poor Posture and TMJ Pain?
Poor posture, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your health. It has a domino effect on everything else. When your body isn’t aligned right it puts excess pressure on bones, muscles, and joints.
As we’ve already noted, good posture happens when everything is centered with your spine. Your head should be level over the back. Relax your shoulders and push them back.
In contrast, poor posture is defined by rounded shoulders and a slouched back. Instead of your head being level above the spine, it gets pushed forward. This happens because your body is trying to balance itself. When your head comes forward, your lower jaw comes with it. The muscles around your jaw joint become strained. Over time, your bite also changes as your body tries to adjust to this new head position.
And this is how poor posture causes TMJ pain. Of course, the strained muscles around your jaw joint can become sore. Poor posture can also lead to increased jaw clenching and tooth grinding, two of the main causes of TMJ disorders.
But the bad bite caused by an unnatural head position is an even bigger factor because it affects the joint directly. The bad bite created by your poor posture makes it harder for your mouth to function the way it’s supposed to. Your jaw joint works harder to chew food. The joint will begin to wear down, leading to TMJ pain.
How Do We Treat Poor Posture and TMJ Pain?
When treating TMJ pain we need to take an orthopedic approach. That means we need to look at the TMJ like a joint. We don’t want to just manage symptoms. We want to look at the whole picture and address the underlying cause.
If you sit a lot for work try to take breaks every hour to walk around, this will keep everything from getting stiff and tired. Working at a computer forces your head to tip forward. So, look into ways to keep your head level. Try a standing desk that you can adjust as needed. All of these things will help you improve your posture, which will prevent further damage to your jaw joint and the rest of your body.
In some cases, correcting your posture is enough to get rid of your TMJ pain. However, many times simply sitting up straight is not enough. You may need to look into other treatment options. Orthodontics can help correct a bad bite. TMJ mouthguards are helpful in preventing grinding and clenching. Going on a soft food diet and finding other ways to rest your joint will also go a long way in curing your TMJ pain.
If the damage done to the joint is extreme, however, you may need to talk to us about surgery. Surgery of course is only recommended when it’s absolutely necessary and all other options have failed.
Bad Posture Can Cause TMJ Disorder. (2021, June 2). https://www.dynamicdentalinc.com/blog/bad-posture-can-cause-tmj-disorder
Center, T. T. (2022, June 7). Poor Posture and TMJ. Beavercreek Dental Care. https://www.bestbeavercreekdentalcare.com/poor-posture-tmj/
Fondriest, J. D. (2020, April 27). Improve Your Posture to relieve Symptoms of TMJ Disorder. James Fondriest, DDS, FACD, FICD. https://lakeforestdentalarts.com/posture-and-tmj-disorder/
Poor Posture Can Cause TMJ Pain
When trying to treat TMJ pain, we need to look at everything that can affect the jaw joint. Even things that we might not be aware of, like our posture. The truth is we can’t ignore the relationship between posture and TMJ pain.
Correcting your posture may not always be easy to do, but it could be one step toward relieving your TMJ pain.