Improve Your Posture to Relieve Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

woman demonstrating good vs bad posture

If your mother drove you crazy with constant demands to “sit up straight”…you should thank her. Whether Mom knew the full effect of posture or not, the truth is, bad posture can be bad for your physical and mental health. Turns out, having a straight spine and correct alignment body can even help relieve symptoms of TMJ disorder. Dr. James Fondriest of Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL understands the link between posture and jaw pain associated with TMJ disorder. He and his team also offer advanced treatment to relieve symptoms and improve jaw function.

Posture and Your Health

Posture refers to the alignment of your body when you are sitting, standing or lying down. Many of us tend to slump or hunch our shoulders when we sit or stand. Practicing proper posture improves your body’s alignment and reduces stress on the tendons. ligaments, and muscles.

Good posture:

  • Can make breathing easier
  • Improve circulation
  • Make you look slimmer
  • Improve function of your bones and joints
  • Put you in a better frame of mind

Basically, good posture causes less wear on your bones, joints and ligaments. A lifetime of slouching and hunching causes degeneration and eventually strain throughout your body, including your jaw.

About TMJ Disorder

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are a pair of joints on either side of your jaw. They are sort of like a hinge that connects the jawbone to your skull, helping to control the movement of your jaw so you can eat, chew, drink and talk. TMJ disorder occurs when the joint become stiff, inhibiting movement of your jaw and making it difficult to open your mouth to eat or talk. It can also cause tremendous pain, and in short, make your life miserable.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder leads to trouble with biting, chewing, and speaking due to a stiff jaw. Other symptoms include:

  • Popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Chronic headaches, including migraines
  • Pain and/or ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus)
  • Popping or fullness in the ears, similar to a eustachian tube dysfunction (TMJ disorder may affect the muscles that open and close the eustachian tube, which regulates pressure in the middle ear.)

What Causes TMJ Disorder

There are a number of reasons why TMJ disorder can develop, and many are related to oral health.

  • Traumatic injury to chin, jaw or the joints
  • Missing back teeth, leading to poor alignment of the jaw
  • Poor alignment of the teeth
  • Wisdom teeth
  • Bruxism (grinding of the teeth at night)
  • Chronic teeth/jaw clenching
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Poor dental treatment
  • Poor posture (slouching/hunching)

The main reason for TMJ disorder is because the muscles of the jaw become strained over time. Sometimes the problem is related to the state of your teeth. Older adults who have gingivitis (gum disease) or decay that leads to tooth loss, often experience jaw pain. They may also have arthritis that deteriorates the jaw joints. Other times, jaw pain develops because of something that is seemingly unrelated, like posture.

How Poor Posture Leads to TMJ Disorder

Hunching and slouching

As we said earlier, bad posture puts strain on the bones and joints. If you are constantly hunching or slouching, your lower jaw will also be misaligned. Over time, this can cause strain, resulting in TMJ disorders in the worst cases. If you suffer from TMJ disorder, check your posture. Recent studies have shown that a poorly aligned body contributes greatly to issues with jaw pain.

Forward head posture

Bad posture can create a domino effect of consequences, including TMJ disorder or the worsening of symptoms. Forward head posture occurs when the body is slouched, forcing the head to create equilibrium by jutting forward. The lower jaw shifts forward in this unnatural position creating malocclusion, or misaligned bite. When the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly it creates jaw muscle joint stress.

Uneven shoulders

Uneven shoulders also contribute to TMJ disorder. When one shoulder is lower than the other, it pulls the side of the neck and jaw muscle creating strain. You can tell if your shoulders are uneven by checking your posture in the mirror. Let your hands hang limply at the sides of your thighs. Both palms should lay flat against the thigh with thumbs facing forward. If your hands appear to face in a different direction or one appears to be higher than the other, you may have uneven shoulders.

Soothing TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Prevent jaw pain and TMJ disorder caused by poor posture by scrutinizing your daily habits.

  • Do you spend all day sitting at a desk?
  • Do you have a commute that equals sitting in the car for a long time?
  • Do you hunch over your computer at work?
  • Do you slouch when you are watching TV?
  • Do you often wear high heels or uncomfortable shoes?
  • Is your mattress lumpy or uneven?

Making small changes to your behavior can have a positive impact on your TMJ disorder. Check that your ears align directly over your shoulders at every stop light on your commute. Do neck stretches daily or try a yoga class. Even treating yourself to a massage can help relax the tension in your neck, which causes jaw pain.

Finding Relief for TMJ Disorder

Correcting your posture can help improve symptoms of TMJ disorder, but if your jaw damage and pain is related to a serious dental issue, you may need more advanced treatment. Crooked teeth will cause your jaw to shift, leading to bite issues, which often results in TMJ disorder. Dr. Fondriest may recommend orthodontic treatment to restore your smile and align your teeth and bite. Missing teeth might require dentures, bridges or dental implants to help support the jaw and prevent erosion of the bone. Congenital jaw defects might need surgery to correct. In severe cases of TMJ disorder, oral surgery may be required to rebuild your jawbone into a more symmetrical shape.

Treatment for TMJ Disorder in Chicago

Chicago dentist, Dr. Fondriest has helped many patients with TMJ disorder using advanced treatment methods for malocclusion. Dr. James Fondriest has received extensive training from the world renowned L.D. Pankey Institute, which specializes in the study of occlusion (bite) and treatment of TMJ disorders, and is considered by many to be the world’s leader in research and treatment of TMJ disorders. Dr. Fondriest is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines years of experience with revolutionary technology for optima care. We proudly serve patients in the Chicago Metro area, including the Northwest and North Shore suburbs, but we often treat patients from all over the United States. To schedule your consultation, go online today or call our office at (847) 234-0517.