Jaw pain and TMJ: Stretches Part 1

Jaw pain, Stretches, TMJ pain / Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

This is a series on jaw pain and TMJ. If you missed the beginning, go back to Part 1.

These stretches for jaw pain and TMJ are effective and must be done gently at first. If your jaw hurts afterward, wait a day and do them again. Start with the unassisted stretches and move to the assisted ones as your body allows. After doing the jaw-opening stretches, if your throat feels sore or tight, or if it feels like there’s a lump in your throat, do the “anterior neck” stretches to loosen the muscles causing that sensation. The following are stretches I give my patients in my Neuromuscular Therapy office near Boston.


PROTRUSION: With your tongue positioned behind your front teeth, your jaw relaxed and teeth apart enough that you can slip your tongue between them at the back molars, exhale and stick your lower jaw out forward (protrude) for a few seconds and then come back to your neutral relaxed position. Repeat this 10 times. When that is comfortable to do, you can go farther by assisting the stretch. Put your fingers at the back of your jaw bone behind your earlobe above the angle of the mandible. Protrude your jaw using the power of your own muscles, then gently push your jaw farther with your fingers while you continue to stretch actively for two seconds. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times.

RETRUSION: Now go the other way. With your jaw in the same position as in the protrusion stretch and your tongue resting in the floor of your mouth this time, draw your jaw back so it looks like you have an overbite. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, release to your neutral starting position and repeat 10 times. When that is comfortable, assist the stretch by pushing your jaw back, actively stretching and pushing simultaneously. Push with the fingers of both hands or try pushing with your chin fitting in the angle of your hand between the thumb and index finger. Open first, then exhale as you assist for two seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

DEVIATION: With your tongue resting in the floor of your mouth and your teeth slightly apart, move your lower jaw bone out to the right as far as you can. Exhale and hold it for a few seconds, release to a relaxed neutral position and repeat 10 times. Do the same thing going to your left. When this is comfortable, assist the stretch by pushing your jaw to the right with your left hand. Be careful. Start slowly and be gentle. Exhale and actively stretch for two seconds, then release and repeat 10 times. Do the same thing to your left.

The next post gives stretches for opening your jaw and for some of the neck muscles involved.

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