There is nothing worse than experiencing intense TMJ jaw pain, neck pain, or a full-blown headache when you’re busy. Unfortunately, for patients with TMJ disorder, busy times tend to spell increased pain or discomfort. We have found that many of our TMJ patients experience more pain during the holiday season.
The stress of the season definitely contributes to the jaw strain and pain that our patients experience. Why does stress affect the jaw? And, is there anything you or Dr. Tom Meyer (Des Plaines dentist) can do to treat or prevent the pain from getting in the way of your holiday plans?
How stress affects the jaw, joints and muscles of the face and neck
According to Colgate, studies have shown that twenty to thirty percent of the population experiences TMJ neck pain, jaw pain, headache, and even a TMJ migraine. Women are three times as likely to experience TMJ pain than men. The statistics are staggering – that means over 97.5 million people regularly suffer with debilitating pain.
TMJ disorder symptoms are caused by:
- Malocclusion (a bite that is off; teeth that don’t fit together ideally).
- Muscle tension in the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders.
- Trauma or injury to the jaw joint or any of the muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders.
- Bruxism (grinding of the teeth), which usually done the most during sleep.
- Arthritis or tumors of the jaw joint.
Each of these circumstances strains the muscles, which leads to tension and pain. Some people experience so much pain that they can’t eat, sleep, or fully open their mouth. Even the slightest touch can cause muscle spasms and even worse pain. It is a horrible condition to deal with, which is why a TMJ specialist like Dr. Meyer will do a TMJ examination at each annual exam appointment. We do this regularly because we believe that the sooner there is a diagnosis, the sooner our patients will be pain-free.
Why the season can cause TMJ jaw pain, TMJ migraines and headaches
For many people, the holiday season is a beautiful time of year, full of love and memorable experiences. However, most people will agree with us that there is a lot of stress during this time of year. Why?
- Shopping: This is probably the number one cause of stress during the season. People are stressed because they want to buy the perfect gift, which can be hard to do in some cases. They’re also stressed out because of the cost of the gifts, decorations, food, etc. And, they also have to deal with other shoppers who are also just as stressed out as they are.
- Putting Up Decorations: You may not think that putting up decorations would be stressful, but we’ve found that it definitely can be. According to Psychology Today, many of us have this idealistic attitude toward the season. We expect it to feel and look like a Norman Rockwell painting; and, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
- Hosting Parties: Being a host or hostess any time of the year can be exciting and fun, but stressful. This is especially the case during the holidays. Again, we have certain expectations that typically put us into “perfection mode” and life simply isn’t perfect. And then we have jaw pain and headaches as a result.
- Eating the Wrong Foods: During this time of year, there seems to be food everywhere. Sweet, chewy foods seem to be particularly abundant. Eating anything chewy or hard can cause a lot of strain on the jaw joint and muscles. The result is jaw strain and pain.
We believe… that there are easy ways to reduce stress this holiday season
With stress coming at us from every direction during this time of year, we have found that a lot of people feel helpless when it comes to their TMJ neck pain and jaw pain.
Fortunately, there are simple things that can be done to reduce stress and prevent discomfort. Here are some simple yet effective ways to avoid additional pain.
- Get sufficient rest: Rest is essential. The less restful sleep you have, the more stressed you will feel. We know there is so much to do during this time of year, but we highly recommend doing all you can to ensure that you get seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night.
- Drink plenty of water: According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, dehydration causes muscle damage. The more dehydrated you are, the more damage there is and the more tenderness and pain you will experience.
- Shop online: This is one of the best ways to beat stress, road rage, and unhappy interactions with other shoppers. Plus, you might find some amazing deals!
- Watch what you eat: Make sure to avoid chewy, sticky, hard foods. Instead, focus more on nutrient dense options to stay healthy and energized. Green vegetables in particular are helpful because they have a lot of anti-inflammatory properties.
- Take time to take a deep breath: Take five or ten minutes throughout the day to step away from your job, shopping, decorating, and cooking, and just breathe. It will help calm you, relax your muscles, and give you perspective about what really matters this season.
A pain-free holiday season: It really is possible!
While stress may be higher during the holiday season, we want to assure you that there is something you can do to prevent pain. Our patients who have put into practice the stress-reduction recommendations or proceed with TMJ jaw pain treatment options have found relief. And, you can too. Of this we are confident. If you would like more information about how Dr. Tom Meyer can help you with TMJ pain, contact us today.
TMJ Dentist Des Plaines and Mount Prospect IL
Have you been experiencing head, neck, or jaw pain recently? If so, you may have TMJ disorder. We invite you to read more about this condition and the importance of getting a diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible.