A facial pain and TMJ disorder expert describes four jaw exercises for facial pain that are comfortable to perform.

TMJ disorder (aka TMD) causes quite a few symptoms, but among the most common is pain, including that in the face.

Before beginning these exercises, you should have a diagnosis of TMJ disorder rather than just assuming you have this common problem.

“The following exercises are often helpful to patients with facial pain,” says Donald R. Tanenbaum, DDS, MPH, a board certified TMJ and orofacial pain specialist, and author of “Doctor, Why Does My Face Still Ache.”

These jaw exercises for facial pain do not represent the full scope of jaw exercises available, adds Dr. Tanenbaum, but these are a great start if you’ve been suffering from facial pain.

Very important: Don’t hold your breath; breathe normally as you perform these movements. There should not be any pain while doing them.

Jaw Exercise 1

Goal: Release tension in jaw-closing muscles

Place your thumb directly under your chin.  Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, halfway back.

Attempt to open your mouth against gentle thumb resistance, as your tongue is kept in contact with the roof of your mouth.

Resist for 3-4 seconds without letting your jaw reach the maximum open position.  Repeat 6 times.

Jaw Exercise 2

Goal: Help coordination of muscles that move jaw from side to side

Take a tongue depressor (given to you by your doctor) and gently rest it between your upper and lower teeth.

Swing your jaw to the right, gliding on the tongue blade, and feel the resistance. Hold it for 3-4 seconds.  Repeat on the opposite side.  Do 10 repetitions of both.

Jaw Exercise 3

Goal: Stretch jaw-closing muscles

While sitting down, place your left elbow on a table and lean your forehead into the palm of your hand.

With the index and middle fingers of your right hand, pull down on the lower front teeth to open the jaw until you feel a stretch in your facial muscles.  Hold for 3-4 seconds, release, and repeat 10 times.

Jaw Exercise 4

Goal: Limit forward movement of jaw on mouth opening

Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, halfway back.  Open your mouth in front of a mirror.

Try to open in a straight line.  Hold in a limited open position for 5 seconds.  Release.  Repeat 5-10 times.

Be consistent with these exercises, and the pain situation from your TMJ disorder should improve.

Dr. Tanenbaum’s practice focuses on facial pain, TMJ disorder and sleep-related breathing disorders. He is the past president of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain and takes a multidisciplinary approach to his patients’ care.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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Top image: Shutterstock/michaelheim