Stress from work can lead to the development of TMJ, but that’s not the only way that your career may cause your jaw to hurt. Many jobs require you to sit at a desk or stand at a counter for long periods of time while working on projects. The temptation to achieve a more comfortable position by slouching is always there, waiting for a moment of fatigue to overcome you. Slouching feels nice, but it can put pressure on all structures of your body, including your jaw. If you have poor posture, you may be putting yourself at risk for TMJ. This painful disorder of the jaw joint can cause a number of symptoms that could decrease your work performance and negatively impact your quality of life.
Maintaining Body Balance at Work
Your body is designed to adjust to accommodate your daily life, and your spine is the best at this function. A posture that does not change the alignment of your spine is said to be in the neutral zone. Poor posture will train the muscles and vertebrae in your back to change their natural curves into a more accommodating position. When this happens, the neutral zone changes so that the new alignment is more natural and less noticeable to you. Whether you consciously notice or not, these changes move other parts of your body out of alignment. The vertebrae in your neck push your lower jaw forward, causing a bad bite to develop over time. For many people, the workplace is where posture problems start because the workspace is not set up to accommodate comfort.
Changing certain elements of your workspace to preserve the alignment of your spine can help prevent TMJ. When you are standing or walking, strive to keep your spine straight and stretched out. Your shoulders and hips should be aligned and horizontal with one another. Don’t stand still in one place too long if you can help it. If you have a job that requires a lot of standing, make sure that you wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Try to avoid elevated shoes because they will roll your hips forward and throw off the alignment of your spine.
Desk jobs can also hurt your posture if you do not set up your workspace to accommodate the needs of your body. If you work primarily at a computer, make sure that it is elevated so that you do not need to look down at it. Even the subtle but constant downward tilt of your head can change the alignment of your spine and push your jaw forward. Make sure that your feet are able to rest flat on the floor with your knees remaining even with your hips. Never tuck your feet underneath your chair or cross your legs for comfort.
Your buttocks should reach the back of the chair for optimal support and to help you sit up straight. Some people who experience back pain may also consider getting pillows designed to support the spine while seated to discourage slouching. Giving in to the temptation to slouch just once could lead to repeat slouching. You should strive to practice good posture at all times so that your spine is always kept in a healthy neutral zone.
There are several treatment options available for people suffering from TMJ. In cases where a bad bite has developed as a result of posture, a bite splint can help reposition the jaw. These splints are commonly worn at night to help prevent bruxism (tooth grinding) while encouraging the jaw to become conditioned to sitting in its proper place. You may also consider wearing the bite splint while at work if possible because it will align your jaw and help you retain good posture.
Your pain should not be allowed to disrupt your life. For more information about the nonsurgical treatment options available to help manage your TMJ, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver TMJ dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.