TMJ Disorder and Exercise

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When is comes to TMD (Temporomandibular joint Disorder), there are many things that a person has to consider when looking for successful treatment. With TMD, most of the time the articular discs that cover the condyles (the cartilage on top of the jaw bones) are displaced and will pinch nerves and blood vessels. This leads to head and neck pain. Oftentimes too, when a person has TMD, their cervical spine (neck) is compressed, so now you have more nerve compression as well. Since the C spine and TMJ work together, one can greatly affect the other.

So now let’s discuss the ramifications of exercise and how it can and will affect the outcome of TMD treatment. When a person runs, as you can well imagine, the neck takes a pounding which compresses the spinous processes. This can, and will, in turn affect the TM joints. This is why running during TMD treatment is really not recommended. An alternative to running is the elliptical machine. This is a no impact device that allows for a great cardiovascular workout with no compaction to the neck. You have to keep your mind on improving the health of those joints and cervical spine.

Another aspect of exercise is weightlifting of course. Most people really do not want to hear that they should not be lifting weights during their course of TMD treatment. The reason for this is that when you lift something fairly heavy, this pulls on the neck muscles- the sternocleidomastoids. These muscles connect directly into the jaw joint and will pull on a displaced disc. You can well imagine that is not a good thing. Another factor is that lifting above shoulder level causes the body to pull more on the neck than it should. This can hurt the joints as well. Once again, this type of exercise will compromise your ability to heal.

Now let’s bring up a four-letter word that comes up quite often: GOLF. So here you are newly retired, living in a house at the country club, new to the game, or just looking to a retirement in place where you can play golf every day of the week. Along comes the TMJ specialist who tells you not to play until you are better. You have a choice: Get better or not. One path means that you must take a hiatus from using those amazing Ping custom made clubs and telling your friends about the hole in one you got. The best choice is to sit at home and use the elliptical machine and get better. This problem occurs whether it’s golf, tennis, or pickleball. You must make a choice and live with it for some time.  This is not permanent but when you get back into it, you may find your stroke and strength improved. As you can see, dealing with TMD takes some effort. For some folks it means sacrificing their normal activities so it’s good to understand all this before treatment begins.