As the world faces a global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to feel pretty (er, really) stressed out. We’re all social distancing and trying to stay as healthy as possible, but there’s a high probability that stress has still taken form in one way or another within your body or your mind. One such common manifestation? Jaw tension.
“Many of us are stressed more than ever and are most likely clenching our jaws,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a New York City-based dentist. Whether you have actual TMJ disorder—a chronic condition characterized by constant pain in the jaw—or newfound intense jaw tension, the tension and pain comes from holding constant pressure in the area. “Jaw tension is usually a sign at minimum that you’re clenching your jaw,” says Dr. Jablow.
Sometimes people clench their jaw at night, so they don’t even realize that they’re doing it. “You could be experiencing pain or tenderness of your jaw, pain in and around your ear, difficulty chewing or pain while chewing, aching facial pain, or a locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth,” says Dr. Jablow. Thankfully, she notes that jaw tension relief can be treated at home. Keep scrolling for her tips.
5 tips for jaw tension relief
1. Facial massage: According to Dr. Jablow, giving your jaw area a massage can “give you a more relaxed face but also drain lymph nodes and bring circulation to the area.” Her advice? Begin by soaking a warm, moist cloth on your face to loosen up the muscles, then slather on a face oil (with clean hands!) upwards from your chin, getting into the tight spots. “Then move to your temples around your eyes to release sinus congestion,” she says.
2. Skimp on the caffeine: “If you have more than two cups of caffeine a day, that can tighten already tense muscles,” says Dr. Jablow. Stick to the bare minimum to avoid any added tightness in the area.
3. Get some Arnica gel: “To help with discomfort, buy some over-the-counter Arnica Montana gel to soothe the muscles,” says Dr. Jablow. Try something like Boiron Arnicare Gel ($10), which you can order from Amazon.
4. Order a night guard: One of the best things you can do for jaw tension, according to Dr. Jablow, is invest in an over-the-counter upper night guard, which you wear to protect your teeth when you sleep. “Most people don’t realize they have been clenching or grinding in their sleep until the pain or tension starts,” she says, noting that a custom night guard will do the best job at preventing this. “You can buy a boil-to-bite one at a drugstore or online until your dentist reopens,” she says.
5. Take your magnesium: “Magnesium can help with muscle relaxation and also help with a better night’s sleep,” says Dr. Jablow. Order something like Pure Encapsulation Magnesium supplements ($20) for the job.