Temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMD) is a complex condition, and the root causes aren’t fully understood. This means that when it comes to managing symptoms, there can be a range of options. TMD pain relief medication, including over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as prescription medications such as muscle relaxers and tricyclic antidepressants, are all valid for short-term relief. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue. However, physical therapy and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding, can also be effective in addressing the root causes of TMD. It is important to consult with a medical professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition, especially when you have facial pain and headache, but adopting some basic TMJ pain relief exercises is an effective, non-invasive method of treatment.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is an issue affecting the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), which are joints found on each side of your head that link your lower jaw to your skull. The joints that control jaw movement can cause a gamut of discomfort to the head, face, neck, and jaws when they are not functioning correctly. Again, while the true causes of the condition are only partially understood, certain things like trauma to the face and jaw, misalignment, or muscle tension from subconscious stressors are thought to cause impingement and strain in the joints, leading to TMD.

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Problems?

Some common symptoms of TMD are face pain and headache, but you might also experience a range of symptoms such as tenderness or pain in the neck and face, difficulty chewing food, popping or clicking sounds when you move your jaw, and restricted motion within the joint itself.
To the average person, these symptoms might feel like:

Pain or Tenderness in the Jaw, Face, or Neck

This pain can be felt in different areas and can vary in intensity—from a dull ache to a sharp, shooting pain.

Difficulty or Discomfort While Chewing

This can make it hard to eat certain foods or make it uncomfortable to chew for extended periods of time.

Popping or Clicking Sounds in the Jaw

These sounds are often caused by the displacement of the jaw disc, which can occur when the jaw is opened or closed.

Limited Range of Motion in the Jaw

This can make it difficult to open the mouth wide or to move the jaw from side to side, affecting basic motor functions like talking or chewing.

Headaches or Migraines

These can be caused by muscle tension in the jaw, head, and neck.

Facial Swelling

Swelling can occur in the cheeks, jaw, or around the eyes.


Because of the joint proximity to the ear canals, pain or discomfort in the ears can be caused by problems with the TMJs.

Dizziness or Vertigo

These symptoms can be caused by muscle tension in the neck affecting the inner ear canal, which controls balance in the body.

It is also important to note that some people may not experience all of these symptoms or may only experience mild symptoms. Additionally, TMJ disorder can be accompanied by other conditions, such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching, which may make the condition worse. It is essential to be aware of TMJ disorder symptoms in order to get early treatment and manage it effectively. A TMJ disorders orofacial pain center is a specialized clinic that can provide diagnosis and treatment for TMJ disorder better than general practitioners, and give patients the best chance of successful and permanent treatment.

Exercises That Help With TMJ Pain

Simple exercises that target the muscles in the face and jaw can help manage pain and discomfort. TMJ pain relief exercises are focused on stretching and relaxing the jaw muscles and improving jaw mobility. Examples of TMJ exercises for pain relief include:

Tongue Movement

Begin by opening up your mouth as wide as you can. Move the tip of your tongue towards the roof of your throat until you discover a soft area on that spot. Use the tip to press gently for five seconds, then extend it out to what is comfortable and hold this position for an additional 5 seconds. Do this pattern three more times.

Face Massage

TMJ pain relief exercises also include self-care practices such as facial massage. Starting with a warm compress on the jaw area to relax the muscles, use slow, circular motions to massage the outside of the TMJs using your fingertips. This type of massage can also promote mental relaxation and overall well-being. It is important to take your time and work through each part of your jawline as needed. In addition, avoid rushing through the massage, and make sure to use gentle pressure to avoid further aggravating the area. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure that this exercise is appropriate for you.

Pressure on the Chin

Start by opening your mouth as wide as it can go, then move the tip of your tongue toward your tonsils and press against the roof of your mouth. This simple exercise can help provide relief from the discomfort associated with TMD by stretching the muscles in the front of the neck and the jaw. To unlock deep relaxation, take the tip of your tongue and press it against a soft spot on the roof of your mouth. Keep it there for five seconds before stretching your jaws as far as you can and holding again. Come back to center after 5 seconds, then repeat this cycle five times in total for maximum effect!

Pen in mouth

To diminish the symptoms of TMD syndrome, you can try the “pen in mouth” exercise. First off, grab a pen, pencil, or any other object with a similar size and diameter. Put it between your teeth like corn on the cob, then move your jaw from one side to another while keeping this position for 10 seconds – repeat with larger items as needed. This routine will help to build up strength in that area without causing strain.


TMJ pain relief exercises also include jaw stretches that target the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) directly. One such exercise is the lateral jaw stretch. To perform this exercise, open your mouth as wide as is comfortable. Place one hand on either side of the jaw and gently press against it to move the jaw sideways. Hold that position for 10 seconds before repeating it on the other side of your face. This exercise can help to stretch and alleviate tension in the TMJ, reducing pain and discomfort. It is important to always perform the exercise with a comfortable range of motion and to avoid overstretching or causing pain. Always consult with a professional to ensure that the exercises are right for you.

When Should You Consider TMJ Surgery?

TMJ pain relief exercises are a non-surgical treatment option for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). These exercises can help to reduce pain and improve jaw mobility by stretching and relaxing the jaw muscles. However, in cases of long-term, intense pain or incapacity that impairs everyday activities such as swallowing or talking, surgery is a viable option. When non-surgical treatments, including physical therapy and exercises, have not been successful in providing relief, or when there are underlying structural issues such as misalignment of the jaw joint or dislocation of the lower jawbone, surgery is often considered a last resort. It is essential to consult with an experienced healthcare professional such as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or otolaryngologist (ENT), before deciding on an invasive course of treatment. TMD specialists can help assess the potential risks and benefits associated with surgery while taking into account your unique circumstances.


TMD is a complicated and painful disorder, but patients have several courses of treatment they can try—from simple jaw exercises to safe and effective surgery. Treatment requires a professional, however, and there’s no place better equipped to help you on your healing journey than a TMJ disorder orofacial pain center like Northern Nevada Center for Orofacial Pain. To get your initial consultation, call today, and let us find what works for you!