There’s no time like the winter time! Beautiful white snowscapes, steaming hot chocolate, glistening icicles along the eaves of the house, and increased jaw pain — wait, what? Despite the things that make winter great, the cold weather can also come with heightened TMJ symptoms for many people.
Though some people think pain fluctuation based on weather is just an old wive’s tale, scientific evidence actually backs it up. And for those experiencing it, it can make the winter season miserable.
Weather’s Effect on Joint Pain
Dr. Robert N. Jamison conducted a survey of over 500 patients with chronic pain. His findings showed that most people report increase in pain with a change in the weather, no matter where they live. People with chronic pain in both warm and cold climates experience worse symptoms when the temperature drops, proving that it’s a change in temperature (or perhaps barometric pressure or humidity), rather than a specific climate, that causes the worsened pain.
A European study on people with osteoarthritis found something similar when reviewing data from the population-based European Project on Osteoarthritis. Data on pain levels compared with weather for 810 individuals with osteoarthritis showed that changes in humidity and temperature were provably linked with increased joint pain, specifically in cold weather conditions.
Culturally, we’re more used to weather-related complaints of pain in joints like the knees and the hips, but the temporomandibular joint is just as viable a candidate for cold weather pain, particularly for people who already suffer from jaw pain as a result of TMJ.
Warding Off Winter TMJ Pain
Unfortunately, an overall warmer climate won’t solve the problem unless the weather never fluctuates. So as tempting as it is to use this as an excuse to pack up and move to Miami, there are more effective (and cheaper!) solutions.
When it does get cold, try to keep your body as warm as possible. Thick scarves can help keep your jaw area insulated when you go outside, and at home it can help to crank up the heat or use an electric blanket.
While day-to-day chewing may not normally be enough to exacerbate your TMJ symptoms, during colder weather, you might see some relief by trying to stick to warm, soft foods, like creamy soups.
If you find that your TMJ pain noticeably worsens in cold weather, the best way to combat that is to consult with your dentist about your specific symptoms. An experienced TMJ dentist like Dr. Kevin Berry can suggest the best ways to minimize the effect of the weather on your comfort.
If you find yourself experiencing jaw pain in relation to weather changes but are not diagnosed with TMJ, you should talk to your dentist about the possibility you may have it. A TMJ dentist can provide drug-free TMJ treatments that can reduce your pain for all seasons, and prevent further damage to your jaw.