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The Holiday Survival Guide for TMJ Patients

holiday woman 2The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes spending time with family and friends, indulging in delicious seasonal foods and drinks and cooler weather. But unfortunately for some, with this time of year comes a heightened level of stress. While the holidays can be a joyous time, they can also be stressful. For patients suffering from Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ), that added stress can become downright painful. Irritability, anxiety, and fatigue can all build up over the holidays and lead to tension headaches, muscle fatigue and soreness and even jaw pain, all of which are underlying TMJ symptoms. Dr. Caracioni sees many patients who suffer from TMJ and isn’t surprised when she notices an increase in those TMJ patients coming into her office during this time of year.

TMJ affects the joint that connects the skull to the lower jaw and can cause headaches and migraines, clicking or popping of the jaw, jaw pain, and even sinus issues. Because stress exacerbates these symptoms, it’s important for TMJ patients to practice good self-care to avoid these painful flare-ups. Here are a few ways to keep TMJ pain at bay this holiday:

Get some shuteye Fatigue is the enemy! We’re all a little unpleasant when we aren’t well-rested. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Treat yourself to a holiday massage! Massages are relaxing, and staying relaxed is key during this busy time of year. Ask your massage therapist to pay special attention to the muscles in your face, neck and shoulders.

Watch what you eat Eating the wrong foods can overexert your jaw, causing jaw pain. It’s best to steer clear of hard or especially chewy foods like caramel chews or crunchy candy canes. Instead, opt for softer foods that are easier to chew like dark chocolate or some homemade mashed potatoes.

Stay Hydrated Drinking water enough water is important for everyone, but if you have TMJ, staying hydrated is even more crucial. Doing so helps relax the muscles in your neck, jaw, and shoulders. Lack of water can cause muscle cramps, which is why staying on top of your water intake can help you avoid an uncomfortable TMJ flare up.

Take a breather Sometimes you just need a minute to relax and regroup. Take a break from holiday shopping and stop by your favorite coffee shop for a warm cup of joe or just take a few minutes to breathe in and out. These simple activities will help you relax your muscles and jaw.

Don’t let TMJ rob you of the joy of the holiday season. Take matters into your own hands by following the above steps, and then make an appointment with Dr. Caracioni by calling 785-783-0741 to discuss available treatment options.