Learn about how essential oils may be able to help your TMJ pain. Read below about which oils we recommend and how to apply them.
Can you imagine a life of pain whenever you try to eat, swallow, yawn or talk? Unbearable, isn’t it? Of course, this isn’t something you think about when you are in perfect health.
Unfortunately for some people, that is what they have to live because of the debilitating pain that results from TMJ syndrome. TMJ syndrome, better known as the Temporomandibular joint syndrome or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to excruciating pain in the jaw’s joint. TMD affects the strongest and the biggest bones in the face region, the mandible. As you know, the mandible supports your lower teeth, and hard tissues support the movements of the mandible.
The pain associated with TMJ Syndrome is a result of a variety of medical problems. Often, the disorder comes about when something goes wrong with the joints of your jaws, or even the jaw muscles.
TMJ affects a small part of the population, but more women are reported to suffer from TMJ than men.
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The TMJ is the joint connecting the mandible/ lower jar to the temporal bone (skull) located in front of the ear. Every human has two TMJs on either side of the jaw. Supporting the function of the joint are facial muscles. The facial muscles that control chewing are the ones attached to the lower jaw.
Other than the muscles, the TMJ is comprised of blood vessels, bones, and nerves.
Ever placed your fingers in front of your ears and then opened your mouth? Can you feel those unique movements? Well, that has everything to do with the TMJ.
The muscles holding the jaws are essential for chewing, as well as the opening and closing of the mouth.
The jawbone is controlled by the TMJ, and it has two characteristic movements – rotation, also called the hinge action or the gliding action.
The rotation of the jawbone causes opening and closing of the mouth while the gliding action of the jaw bone allows you to open your mouth wider.
The coordinated action of these movements allows you to chew, swallow, talk, and yawn.
Whenever you open your mouth the condyles – the rounded ends of your lower jaw glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. When you close your mouth the condyles slide back into their original position.
So, how does the mouth maintain this smooth movement? Well, there is a soft disk of cartilage which lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. The disk facilitates the smooth movement by absorbing shocks to the temporomandibular joint. The shocks come from the forces associated with chewing, yawning, and other movements and the disk distributes all that force through the joint’s space.
Did you know that the temporomandibular joint makes between 2000 and 3000 moves in a day, and double if you chew gum?
As a result, any problems in the lower jaw and the surrounding muscle will be felt as pain in the head, neck, ear, headaches as well as facial pain.
Issues with the joint and the muscles also cause the jaw to lock in position making it difficult to open the jaw. It also affects your ability to bite, and you may feel your jaw clicking or making a popping sound when you bite.
What Are The Causes of TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint pain hardly comes about in normal discussions, but the condition may arise from disease, trauma, or wear and tear associated with your oral habits or aging. In short, you could be a victim too.
Microtrauma or microtrauma can cause TMJ Syndrome. Microtrauma occurs internally when you grind your teeth (bruxism) or through jaw clenching or tightening.
The continuous hammering on the temporomandibular joint could change the alignment of your teeth, while the involvement of muscles causes the inflammation of the membranes that surround the TMJ. Most TMJ issues and myofascial pain are diagnosed in individuals who grind and clench their teeth.
On the other hand, you have macrotrauma. Macrotrauma comes about when you get a hard punch on the jaw or when you get involved in an accident, and you break or dislocate the TMJ or the cartilage disk.
If you continually clench or bite on things when awake – pen, chewing gum or your fingernails, you are constantly pounding your temporomandibular joint causing pain.
Also called teeth grinding. It is a habit that causes muscle spasms or an inflammatory reaction which causes pain. As a result of grinding, you may experience a change in the height of your teeth, misalignment or change in normal stimuli. These changes initiate further change in the temporomandibular joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. This causes the inflammation of the joint and it could affect the TMJ. Progression of the disease destroys cartilage, and it also erodes the bone. Eventually, it causes joint deformities.
The jaw is prone to arthritic changes like other joints in the body. The changes cause the degeneration/ breakdown or wear and tear. Osteoarthritis causes degenerative joint disease that results in the slow and progressive loss of cartilage or the formation of new bone on the surface of the joint.
The destruction of cartilage results from mechanical and biological changes. The condition worsens with aging, trauma, as well as immunological and inflammatory diseases.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
- Pain/ tenderness of the jaw.
- Aching facial pain.
- Tinnitus – ringing, hissing, buzzing, clicking or swishing noise in the ear or the head.
- Difficulty and pain when chewing.
- Locking of the joint that makes it difficult for you to open or close your mouth.
- The mouth and the face may swell on the side affected.
- Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.
- Pain in the temporomandibular joints.
While research on TMJ syndrome is ongoing, it has become apparent that these are some of the risk factors:
- Gender: women are at a higher risk of developing TMJ Syndrome than men.
- Pain tolerance: people sensitive to mildly painful stimuli have an increased risk of developing TMJ Syndrome
- Age: women between 18 and 44 years are at a higher risk of developing the disorder than men.
- Chronic pain: individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions like headaches and lower back pain are at a higher risk of developing TMJ Syndrome.
- Genetics: genes related to stress response, inflammation or psychological health are at greater risk.
While surgery is always an option for treating TMJ, you shouldn’t go for it before seeking alternative treatments. Essential oils show great promise in the treatment of TMJ Syndrome. There also exist other natural remedies which we’ll look into later in this article.
Essential Oils for TMJ Syndrome
The use of essential oils for the management and treatment of TMJ is effective thanks to the antibacterial, sedative, and the anti-inflammatory effects of the essential oils. The oils can also stimulate blood circulation, ease muscle pain and tightness, and they also offer pain relief. The stress management effects of essential oils make them ideal for the treatment of TMJ, among other ailments.
While there are several essential oils shown to be effective in the treatment of TMJ syndrome, you have to be careful when buying the oils. Ensure that you use the highest quality oils without additives. Though expensive, you have to use the pure essential oils for you to feel the benefits of the oils.
1. Lavender essential oil
This is the most common essential oil used in aromatherapy for relaxation, or the treatment of different diseases.
Lavender essential oil has antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-fungal effects. At the same time, the oil brings about feelings of tranquility and calmness thanks to the sweet scent of the oil.
Lavender oil finds its way to TMJ Syndrome patients thanks to its ability to relieve pain and lower blood pressure. Its anti-inflammatory effects mean that you can use the oil to reduce inflammation of the cartilage and the mandibular muscles. The oil is also antispasmodic hence its effectiveness in dealing with muscular issues.
Since lavender oil brings about feelings of relaxation, patients can fall asleep easier. With insomnia a common issue for individuals suffering from TMJ Syndrome, the oil enhances a patient’s quality of life while managing the pain.
2. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint oil is one of the most popular oils used to treat TMJ. It has a pleasant aromatic scent, and it’s of great benefit to patients suffering from TMD.
The extracts from Mentha piperita in the form of oil have antispasmodic effects meaning that the oil is effective in relaxing muscles and reducing muscle spasms. Relaxed muscles are smooth and less painful.
Peppermint oil is also effective in the treatment of headaches and tension. With headaches, muscle tension, and facial pain as the main symptoms of the temporomandibular joint syndrome, having a pain relief option that cannot cause addiction is invaluable. The oil is also invaluable in dealing with the associated stiff neck or pain in the neck.
Also, peppermint essential oil is an analgesic, and it has anti-inflammatory effects which protect the cartilage disk and the muscles from erosion resulting from inflammations.
The oil also comes highly recommended because it has a cooling effect, and it stimulates blood circulation, improving the TMJ symptoms.
The only downside of peppermint oil besides toxicity, when used in large amounts, is that people with asthma or epileptic seizures cannot use it.
3. Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil
This essential oil prides itself on its unique soothing effects. It has immense sedative effects, and its use has been shown to bring about calmness and relaxation. Therefore, this oil is of great help in managing TMJ Syndrome because it relaxes muscles, as well as the nervous system.
It also possesses antibacterial effects, and it helps in case of inflammations or broken jaw bones and muscles which are susceptible to infections when exposed to trauma.
The oil also enhances vascular muscle relaxation by lowering blood pressure. This reduces muscle pain significantly. And, by sedating the aching temporomandibular joint pain, or relieving the stiff neck, you can lead a happier and low-pain life.
Sweet Marjoram essential oil reduces TMJ’s neuromuscular stiffness and contractions. It also helps in the management of trauma and negative emotions.
Like peppermint oil, it isn’t suitable for people with epileptic seizures or asthma.
4. Eucalyptus essential oil
This essential oil known for its natural pain-relieving qualities, antiviral and antibacterial properties are effective in the management of the pain associated with TMJ syndrome.
5. Grapefruit Essential Oil
As a citrus oil, the grapefruit essential oil has immense soothing effects. It relieves stress from normal life responsibilities, and it also helps patients with TMJ syndrome feel less stress or pain because of its mild mood-lifting effects. It also relaxes the body relieving tension.
Grapefruit essential oil has also been shown to be effective in treating depression and alleviating the stresses caused by TMJ.
6. Clary Sage Essential Oil
If you are looking for an essential oil to relieve pain and to leave you with a clear mind, then you could try the clary sage essential oil. It has pain-relieving effects, and it also clears the mind, and it increases mental focus.
Its use in treating TMJ Syndrome comes from its antispasmodic effects. It soothes the spasms and the cramps in the temporomandibular joint, neck, face, and the head. It also relieves menstrual and digestive spasms.
The oil also boosts antiseptic effects meaning that it protects the affected area from infections.
Using a diffuser with clary sage essential oil lowers stress and anxiety symptoms. It is calming and also relaxing.
Mixing clary sage with chamomile essential oil enhances the pain-relieving qualities of the oil, and it also loosens tension associated with the temporomandibular joint disorder.
7. Chamomile Essential Oil
Forget the calming chamomile tea. Chamomile essential oil has far more benefits. The oil has a strong calming scent.
Chamomile essential oil also has analgesic effects which reduce the pain in the bone, muscle and the joint. This essential oil also relieves the severe pain around the cranial nerve resulting from the pressure on the blood vessels.
8. Valor Essential Oil
The valor essential oil is applied to the neck and the jaw for the treatment of TMJ. In combination with frankincense, spruce, and blue tansy, you have a blend that treats bone and muscle aches.
This essential oil is one of the oldest oils known for its religious use, as well as its healing properties. It possesses strong analgesic properties which make it the ideal essential oil for relieving the pain and tension associated with TMJ syndrome. The effects of frankincense essential oil are comparable to the pain-relieving effects of aspirin. The essential oil works by inhibiting pain the same way but better than aspirin.
Frankincense essential oil can be used during the initial and the late phase TMH pain.
10. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil has mood-boosting effects. It also relieves painful muscles, and it treats depression.
11. Helichrysum Essential Oil
Besides its use in religious rituals, this oil is often used in therapeutic massages because of its relaxing effects. The oil is mood boosting, and it helps with depression and anxiety associated with TMJ syndrome.
12. Tea Tree Oil
This is one of the essential oils with the highest number of medicinal uses. It is used in the treatment and the management of temporomandibular joint pain because of its antiherpetic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects. Since the pain from TMJ syndrome comes from tension and inflamed muscles, tea tree oil relieves muscle tension and pain.
Unlike other essential oils, you can use tea tree oil without diluting it with a carrier oil.
13. Camphor Essential Oil
Camphor essential oil has soothing effects, and it fights inflammations. It also has pain-relieving properties. The oil is used in the treatment of TMJ Syndrome because of its cooling sensation as well as its pain relieving and the anti-inflammatory effects.
How To Use Essential Oils for TMJ Pain
The best aromatic essential oils have anti-inflammatory and sedative effects. But, the oils have varying levels of sedative effects, anti-inflammation, and pain relieving effects.
As a result, the use of essential oil blends is common for the maximization of the effects of the oils.
For TMJ pain, the best way to use these essential oils is through local application by massaging. However, the oils shouldn’t be applied directly because of sensitivities.
Before applying the oils, you should dilute it with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are primarily vegetable oils.
The best carrier oils for TMJ pain and muscle tension include olive oil, black seed, tamanu and hemp oils. These oils have anti-inflammatory effects too boosting the power of the essential oils.
Besides topical application, you can also use essential oils in essential oil diffusers. You just need to add a few drops of your preferred essential oil into the diffuser and leave it running for about 30 minutes. Note that inhaling the oils for more than 30 minutes will cause the opposite effects, increasing your blood pressure instead of lowering it and calming down your nerves.
You do not need to add a carrier oil, and you mix different essential oils
Massaging with essential oils
For improved quality of life and jaw pain relief, you need to massage the essential oil correctly. Massaging relaxes muscles, and it also increases the speed at which the sedative and the anti-inflammatory oils reach the TMJ.
You have to use little pressure when massaging the muscles and the joints.
Steps for massaging
- With your essential oil blend ready,
- Put some of the oil on your fingers leaving out the thumb and then rub the fingers until they get warm.
- Starting at the bottom of the jaw, apply little pressure while pulling your fingers upwards towards the temples. Repeat this movement for not less than a minute.
- Go on as above but start from the temples going upwards towards your hairline.
- Using your three fingertips, apply gentle pressure and move your fingers downwards from the cheekbone.
- Use your knuckles to massage the muscles of the jaws and the temples. Massage using circular movements.
- With your mouth open and the muscles relaxed, use your knuckles to massage the area from the cheekbones towards the mouth.
You can repeat these massage steps several times in a day.
More Natural Remedies for TMJ Syndrome
While it remains unclear as to why exercises relieve the pain associated with TMJ, it goes without saying that exercises work. So, even though exercising the jaw seems like a punishment when you are in pain, exercising is worth trying.
In some cases, exercises increase your range of mouth opening, and they are better than using mouth guards as is the case for people with TMJ disc displacements.
Here are some of the approved exercises for TMJ syndrome pain and improved mobility.
- Goldfish exercises
For this, you need to place your tongue on the roof of your mouth with one finger in front of your ear, that is the location of the TMJ.
Then, put the middle finger on your chin and drop your jaw halfway then close. You should feel a mild resistance but not pain.
With your tongue on your mouth’s roof, place a finger on your TMJ and another finger on the chin. Then, drop the lower jaw completely and back up.
Repeat these goldfish exercises six times daily.
- Relaxed jaw exercise
For this exercise, you need to rest your tongue gently on the top part of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth and then, allow your teeth to come apart as you relax your jaw muscles.
- Resisted opening of the mouth
With your thumb under your chin, open your mouth slowly while pushing gently against your chin for some resistance, hold that position for six seconds then close your mouth slowly.
- Chin Tucks
With your shoulders held back and your chest up, pull your chin straight back to create a double chin. Hold that position for three seconds and make ten repetitions.
- Yoga – there are yoga poses that relieve TMJ pain like downward facing dog, upward facing dog or the inverted leg pose.
- Follow a healthy diet
Prevention of TMJ Syndrome
- Treating Bruxism
- As one of the causes of TMJ Syndrome, you can see a doctor if you grind your teeth. A splint custom-made for your teeth may help with grinding.
- Avoid large chunks when eating
- If you experience jaw pain, you should avoid chewing gum or biting on objects
- Avoid cradling your phone between your shoulder and the neck.
- You should also avoid too much stress. You could diffuse essential oils to help you relax.
Despite the pain, a small percentage of individuals, about 1 percent will require surgery to treat TMJ Syndrome. While there are cases where TMJ pain goes away on its own, essential oils, healthy eating, and the exercises mentioned above, as well as massages and good posture, make for easy management of TMJ Syndrome.