Head & Neck By Sophie Xie / June 17, 2016 Say good-bye to TMJ pain with these 5 convenient jaw exercises If you think that making faces to a mirror is only a child's game, you would be wrong. TMJ exercises can be just as much fun and rewarding.Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is one of the most used joints in our body. The jaw muscles are also one of the strongest muscles we have, producing up to 200 pounds of forces in the process of chewing and clenching.Problems in the TMJ can be devastating to the quality of our lives and our mental health. Exercising your jaw is a highly effective way to manage your TMJ pain in most cases. These exercises can help us reverse the imbalance in the jaw muscles and tune-up the TMJ functions. [Recommended reading: 3 types of TMJ pain with 6 fascinating causes. Which do you have?]Understanding TMJ functionsMost people consider TMJ a hinge joint. It opens and it closes.In fact our body rarely has hinge joints, or we would move like R2D2 and C3PO. In addition to opening and closing, your jaw also deviates from side to side, protrudes and retracts. Although there are separate muscles that are responsible for each movement, the jaw closer or clencher muscles are significantly more powerful than the muscles of all other jaw movements. This is because our survival depends on the force of our jaw clencher to crush and chew our food. Masseter muscle Most TMJ conditions are composed of strong and tight jaw clenchers and weakness in muscles that manage all other motions. Effective TMJ exercises should target this drastic imbalance in force and assist in relaxing the tensed up jaws.Another factor that significantly affects your TMJ function is posture. The typical poor posture, with rounded shoulders and forward neck, severely affects the resting and functional position of the temporomandibular joints. In order to accommodate this unnatural head position, the jaw muscles are forced to function in a highly disadvantaged position.Through strengthening the muscles that promotes optimum upper body posture, you are very likely to experience TMJ pain relief as well. [ [Recommended reading: How to improve posture with these 3 on-the-go exercises]As you start practicing these exercises, I highly recommend doing them in front of a mirror so that you can see your movement and jaw alignment as you go. TMJ exercise #1: Jaw opening warm-up This is a gentle exercise to loosen stiff jaws and tender TMJs. Assume good posturePush the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouthHold your tongue against the roof of your mouth and gently open your jaw as much as you can, then close itRepeat 8 timesBy holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth, you deactivate the masseter muscles (jaw clencher) and guide your jaw to open in a centralized position.TMJ exercise #2: Contract-relax jaw stretchMost people suffering from TMJ pain have limitation in jaw opening. This stretch uses muscle energy technique to trick the tight jaw clencher muscles to relax and allow more jaw motion. It is always important to perform all exercises within your pain-free range. Assume good postureCross your thumb and index finger so that your thumb pushes up against your top teeth, and index finger pushes down against your bottom teethOpen your jaw as wide as you can within a pain-free and comfortable range. Use your fingers to hold your jaw in this positionGently push your teeth against your fingers as if attempting to close your jaw. Hold this contraction for 8 seconds, then relax your jawWithout closing your jaw or moving your fingers away, try to open your jaw slightly wider. Use your fingers to hold your jaw in this new position and repeat the contractionRepeat held contraction and jaw opening for three cyclesRight after a gentle contraction, your masseter muscles may be more willing to stretch a little bit further. This contract-relax muscle technique works well on most of the muscles in our body. If this stretch causes any discomfort, you should dial back and start in a more conservative jaw opening range.TMJ exercise #3: Resisted jaw openingHere is a straight-forward way to strengthen your jaw opening muscle. These muscles are located in the under side of your chin. Thus, persistently exercising your jaw opener muscles can also help rid your double chin. Assume good posturePush your thumb against the tip of your chin from underSlowly open your jaw while resist this movement firmly with your thumbApply enough resistance to make your jaw work while allowing movement tooApply resistent to your jaw both on the way to open and on the way to closeRepeat exercise 8 timesYou should perform this exercise in a comfortable range.TMJ exercise #4: TMJ protrusion exerciseThis exercise will help you stabilize and align your TMJ. Relax your jaw by opening it partiallyPush your tongue against the roof of your mouth and tighten your facial muscles by smilingGently push your jaw forward and relaxRepeat this exercises 8 timesTMJ exercise #5: Isometric jaw deviationJaw deviation is also an excellent exercise for TMJ stabilization. Relax your jaw by opening it partiallyPut your fingers on the painful side of your jawPush your jaw against your fingers while use your fingers to resist your jaw movementHold your jaw push for 8 seconds and relaxRepeat the exercise 8 times, then switch exercise to the opposite side of jawThe above 5 exercises directly target the muscles controlling your jaw movements. I highly recommend that you consider including the posture exercises in this post to be part of your routine.Once you are familiar with these exercises, you wouldn't need a mirror to check your techniques. You can then do these exercises during breaks or on-the-go. Most people experience significant TMJ pain reduction with daily exercises after 5-6 weeks. You should experience even faster results if you are also combining TMJ massage therapy with a nightly mouth guard.TMJ pain can be highly sensitive and irritable. If any of these exercises is causing more pain in your TMJ, please stop that particular exercise until the pain has returned to normal, then try the exercise again with less resistance or movement. Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.Like what you just read? Share this post via our social media buttons! They are everywhere on this page!Want to know more about treating your own pain with techniques from a physical therapist? Please subscribe to our newsletter!