You often hear about the health benefits of yoga. People who practice it claim that it can help to ease stress, reduce pain and improve flexibility. There are even rumors that it can help to relieve discomfort associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. If you regularly experience jaw or facial pain, feel as if your jaw is "locked" or have other symptoms of a TMJ disorder, you may be wondering if the rumors are true. Unfortunately, there isn't much evidence yet to suggest that yoga for TMJ pain relief is particularly helpful — but it might provide other benefits that can make it worth your while.
Does Yoga Provide TMJ Pain Relief?
So far, there haven't been any studies conducted to examine if yoga can relieve pain, discomfort or any other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders. However, studies have looked into how yoga can relieve pain in other areas of the body. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes that research has indicated yoga may help ease lower back pain and neck pain. The NCCIH doesn't specifically mention jaw pain or TMJ disorders in its review, but it does point out that there is very little research examining the role that yoga might play in helping to alleviate headaches or arthritis pain.
While scientific research has yet to weigh in on the benefits of yoga for TMJ pain, you might be able to find a yoga teacher who can offer support or recommend poses that might ease tension in your jaw. For example, Yoga International recommends several poses that can help you relax your jaw and improve jaw alignment issues. If you are interested in practicing yoga to potentially improve jaw discomfort, it's a good idea to speak with your doctor or dentist before doing so.
Other Benefits of Yoga
While research on yoga and TMJ pain isn't readily available, studies have examined the other potential benefits of practicing yoga that may help you find some relief. For example, the NCCIH reveals that 86% of adults who practice yoga believe that it helps to reduce stress. Stress can cause you to tighten your jaw muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic — therefore, reducing stress may help you ease the tension in your jaw.
Harvard Medical School reports on a study that compared people's stress levels to their pain responses. In the study, people with poorly controlled stress levels tended to be more sensitive to pain, while those who practiced yoga had better-controlled stress levels and were less sensitive to pain. These findings suggest that yoga may help regulate your body's response to stress and lead to an improvement in your overall pain sensitivity.
What Else Can You Do for TMJ Pain Relief?
Although TMJ pain can be pretty uncomfortable, the good news is that conservative treatments are often effective in relieving pain, as a study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain reveals. Some of these treatments include physical therapy exercises, stretching exercises and massages. Your doctor might also be able to prescribe pain relievers or muscle relaxants, or they may recommend wearing a mouth guard at night to ease tension in the jaw, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Yoga might not be the magic cure you were hoping for when it comes to getting TMJ pain relief. But if you want to try practicing yoga, you might find that it helps you in other ways. Just remember to have a chat with your doctor first to ensure that you are in good health to practice this kind of exercise. They may also recommend alternative exercises or treatment options to help you manage your symptoms.