Here are some simple measures to help manage your TMJ pain during COVID-19 until you are able to return for assessment.
- Moist Heat. Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
- Ice. Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 – 15 minutes. Ice is best used for joint pain, instead of muscle pain. Place the ice directly in front of your ear for best results.
- Splint therapy. Continue utilizing your splint as directed by Dr. Friesen. If you have been directed to only wear the splint at nighttime, but are reporting daytime symptoms increasing throughout the day, utilize the splint for periods of 1-2 hours, intermittently throughout the day. Never leave the splint in for 24 hours, as unwanted bite changes could occur. Do not eat with your splint in.
- Soft Diet. Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
- Over the-Counter Analgesics. For many people with TMJ Disorders, short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary relief from jaw discomfort.
- Jaw Exercises. Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility and healing. Always ensure any jaw exercises are performed within the limit of pain free motion.
- Relaxation Techniques. Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage, and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
- Side Sleeping. Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
- Relax Facial Muscles. Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart, particularly during these stressful times,
- Yawning. Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open.
In addition, avoid:
- Jaw clenching. Set an reminder on your phone to check in on yourself to ensure you are not clenching
- Gum chewing.
- Cradling the telephone, which may irritate jaw and neck muscles.