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TMJ and Its Effects on Daily Activities: A Detailed Look

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a complex, often painful condition that refers to any problem impacting the joints and muscles of the jaw. It commonly causes pain, dysfunction, and even widespread effects upon your daily activities. Even with its widespread prevalence – it’s estimated to affect 10 million Americans — TMJ’s causes and effects are not well understood.

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at TMJ disorder, its causes, and how it impacts daily activities. We’ll also discuss how to detect, diagnose, and treat it, as well as some effective self-care techniques.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The fundamental cause of TMJ is a misalignment or breakdown in the muscles and joints of the jaw. However, there are many additional factors that can contribute to or worsen the problem. Some of the most common causes of TMJ disorder include:

  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding
  • Frequent gum chewing
  • Chronic stress
  • An injury or trauma to the jaw, head or neck
  • An underlying medical condition like arthritis
  • An incorrectly aligned bite

Effects on Daily Activities

TMJ disorder can cause a multitude of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, that can have a major impact on your daily life. Some of the most common symptoms and effects of TMJ disorder include:

  • Difficulties opening the mouth (jaw stiffness)
  • Pain and tenderness in the jaw, neck and shoulders
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain in the ear and around the ear (Tinnitus)
  • Creaking or popping noises when you open and close the jaw
  • Difficulty chewing or holding the jaw in certain positions
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • An increased feeling of tension in the jaw, head, and neck

All of these symptoms can cause frustration, fatigue, and a generally much lower quality of life. If left untreated, it could even spread to other areas of the body, affecting the muscles and even the bones of the head and neck.

Detecting and Diagnosing TMJ

To diagnose the disorder, a healthcare provider will start by taking a full medical and personal history. They may also ask detailed questions about your symptoms, to help them accurately narrow down the source of the problem.

Physical examinations can also be helpful, as the provider can check for tenderness in certain areas of the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Additionally, an x-ray of the jaw may reveal any deformities, fractures, or other underlying issues.

If further evaluation is required, an MRI, CT scan, or other advanced imaging techniques may be necessary to capture a detailed look at the joints and muscles of the jaw.

Treating TMJ Disorder

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for TMJ disorder. The treatment will depend upon the severity of the issue, as well as the specific cause of the symptoms. However, some of the most common methods for treating TMJ disorder include:

  • Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy techniques, such as gentle stretching and massage
  • Alternative therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic care
  • Counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help manage stress and anxiety
  • Allergy testing and food sensitivity screening
  • Surgical options, like arthroscopy or joint replacement

For milder cases of TMJ, self-care techniques may be enough to alleviate the symptoms. These may include practicing good posture, avoiding excessive jaw movements, eating soft foods, using a relaxation technique like meditation or deep breathing, and staying hydrated to reduce muscle tension.


TMJ disorder can have many negative effects on daily activities, significantly impacting your quality of life. However, with the right combination of treatments, many people are able to effectively reduce symptoms and manage the condition. If you suspect you may be dealing with TMJ, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to get an accurate diagnosis and begin an appropriate treatment plan.