If you are beginning to suffer TMJ symptoms, you might have noticed that they seem to come and go with your body’s stress level. When you get upset, you may notice that you get jaw pain or headaches. That’s because stress can cause you to tense your jaw muscles or other muscles that may cause dysfunction in your jaw, causing symptoms that may run from your forehead to the tips of your fingers.
Identifying your stress triggers, also called stressors, can help you combat them and reduce the frequency or severity of your TMJ.
When we’re involved in a dangerous situation or conflict, our body immediately responds by releasing stress compounds that prepare us for responding to the situation, what is commonly described as the “flight or fight” response. This is acute stress, and it’s not considered a major problem, although it can lead to short-term TMJ flare-ups.
Chronic stress is when you are exposed to stress for prolonged periods of time. It can result in many dangerous symptoms in addition to ongoing TMJ problems, such as sleeplessness and immune system deficiencies.
Identifying Stress Triggers
Before you can control your stress, you have to know what’s causing it. We can divide stressors into two major categories: external stressors (those caused by others) and internal stressors (those caused by you).
External stressors: External stressors include common factors like life changes, financial worries, job problems, and relationship problems. However, external stressors also less recognizable problems like environmental stress due to home or workspaces that are too bright, too dark, too noisy, or otherwise stressful. It also includes physical stresses we put on our body through overwork or lack of sleep and exposing our body to stresses due to alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, or prescription drugs.
Often, these may start as acute stressors that become chronic.
Internal stressors: Sometimes we’re our own worse enemy, as is often the case with internal stressors. These may include irrational fears, pushing oneself too hard, or planning.
Dealing with Stressors
Stress is cumulative, so anything you can do to reduce your overall stress may have surprising benefits even if it doesn’t target the primary cause of your stress. Start by tackling the easy ones that you can control, such as your environment, your diet, and your schedule. Get more sleep and more personal time. Eat better and be more active. Cut down on drinking, smoking, and caffeine.
Next, make actionable plans that can help you feel more in control of your life. The key is to make them things you can act on, because plans that you can’t pursue just lead to more stress. Finally, if you can’t make headway against your stress, get help, either from friends and family or from a doctor.
If TMJ Isn’t Reduced with Stress
If you are making headway against your stress, but your TMJ symptoms aren’t being reduced, you may have damage to the jaw joint that requires TMJ treatment to achieve relief and prevent further worsening of symptoms.
For help with TMJ treatment in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.