TMJ: Diet and Exercise Treatment

tmj diet

Explores associated disorders including plugged ears, fibromyalgia, neck pain and more.

The Cause of My TMJ

Contributing Factors

Diet Modifications

The Role of Exercise

TMJ is the commonly used acronym for temporomandibular joint disorder. The pain associated with TMJ is thought to be caused by displacement of the cartilage where the lower jaw connects to the skull causing pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves. I developed a very bad case of TMJ several years ago, along with an overall case of fibromyalgia. My jaw was so painful that I had to eat baby food at times.

In looking for a cure, I bought a lot of books and spent hours on online research. I went to see many different types of practitioners, including TMJ specialists, dentists, doctors, orthopedists, an acupuncturist, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and more, in order to try to find a cure for my TMJ pain and overall fibromyalgia. Eventually it worked and now my pain is gone. The TMJ treatment options that helped me are listed below.

The Cause of My TMJ

In my case, my jaw was where I really hurt, but it actually wasn’t the source of my pain. The source of my pain was tight muscles from other parts of my body pulling on my jaw, causing pain and pulling it out of alignment. The practitioner who helped my TMJ the most was a physical therapist who specialized in ergonomics, posture training and body alignment. He looked at my body as a whole, and his treatment to improve my posture and body alignment helped me a lot. Below is a picture of how my body used to look when my TMJ pain was at it’s worst. The dark circles are tension points with knotted muscles and the shaded lines are where my skin, nerves and muscles were being pulled taught between the tension points.

Food for Thought

The most important point to remember, and the number one reason I see in my email for people never really recovering from TMJ, seems to be that most people fail to consider the possibility that the place in your body where you are feeling pain may not be the place in your body that is causing the pain. Your jaw may be hurting because of muscle tension pulling on your jaw from some other part of your body.

We have a two story house, and we recently had foundation work done. The house was sagging on the first and second stories, but the engineers spent most of their time examining the crawl space under the house and had the construction crew fix the support posts in the crawl space. The source of the problem was not in the same place as the symptoms of the problem. Think of your TMJ as being in your “second story”, and consider the possibility that your real problem might start with alignment problems somewhere else in your body, like in your knees or maybe even your feet. As shown above, a muscle knot in my right leg over time was pulling down on my shoulder and jaw.

If you have TMJ, look in the mirror and see if your shoulders are evenly balanced from side to side and front to back. Beside shoulder issues, many people with TMJ also suffer from a forward head posture that pulls the jaw out of proper alignment.

Contributing Factors

I realize now that there were a multitude of factors that contributed to my TMJ. My body alignment problems were one, but there were also other factors. These were:

I had a hereditary connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. TMJ is common in people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome or other connective tissue disorders. Besides TMJ, other common features of connective tissue disorders are mitral valve prolapse, hypermobile joints (also called being double jointed), myopia (nearsightedness), irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, pectus excavatum (sunken chests), scoliosis, hearing problems, anxiety disorders, heart palpitations, poor wound healing and bleeding problems. Some people, especially women, with connective tissue disorders have what is called a Marfan habitus or mitral valve prolapse syndrome. They are tall and thin with long arms and legs, scoliosis and/or a chest deformity such as pectus excavatum or pectus carinatum .

A study from Sweden found, “an association between joint hypermobility, abnormal skin connective tissue composition, mitral valve malfunction, and musculoskeletal disorders in young women with TMJ dysfunction, especially internal derangement.” Basically, TMJ, hypermobility, defective connective tissue and MVP seems to occur together, either in people with defined connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or people in the general population with mild connective tissue abnormalities.

See my home page for more information on connective tissue disorders. I had most of the problems listed above and a lot more. I never knew they were all interrelated, or that there was a name for my health problems, until I was diagnosed by a rheumatologist with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. After my diagnosis, I started looking up things on the Internet and everything started to click. I put up this web site describing my health problems, what seemed to help me, and how I thought my symptoms were all logically interrelated and related to nutrition. Now I literally get hundreds of thousands of visitors a year from people with variations of many the same symptoms as I have had, including TMJ.

I also suspect that I had a problem with defective hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is also called Hyaluronan, or HA. Hyaluronic acid is a component of connective tissue that functions to cushion and lubricate various body parts. HA occurs throughout the body in abundant amounts in many of the places people with TMJ also have problems, such as other joints, eyes and heart valves. A study on PubMed showed that people with TMJ had abnormalities of hyaluronic acid compared to people without TMJ. Interestingly, one of the latest treatments for TMJ is injections of hyaluronic acid or oral supplements focused on improving hyaluronic acid.

Overuse of my hand on the side where I had TMJ was another contributing factor. I had TMJ on my right side where I used a computer mouse for hours at a time. I think the tightness caused from gripping the mouse all day tightened my muscles on that entire side of my body and contributed to my TMJ pain and fibromyalgia. My TMJ pain also developed after I had children and spent a lot of time pushing baby strollers, so I think that was another contributing factor. I have two sons close in age, so when they were little I had two babies to take care of at one time. I would push both of them around in a very heavy, double stroller. I think the gripping and pushing action from pushing the stroller around tightened my hand and shoulder muscles and also contributed to my TMJ. To make things even worse, I used to purposely push their stroller uphill for exercise. In hindsight this tightened the muscles too much in the front of my shoulder on my right side. I know now I should have embarked on a more balanced program of stretching and strengthening.

I also suspect that I had a magnesium deficiency. As you can see from the chart below, many of the conditions that are linked to TMJ, such as mitral valve prolapse and fibromyalgia, are also linked to low levels of magnesium. Mg deficiencies can cause both tight muscles and defective connective tissue. One of the things that helped my MVP, fibromyalgia and TMJ was adding more foods rich in this important mineral to my diet.

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