Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that can put a real cramp on your lifestyle. With a wide range of symptoms such as jaw pain, tinnitus, and headaches that can range from annoying to disabling, you might find that the condition interferes with some of your favorite activities.
But maybe some of those activities may be responsible for your TMJ in the first place.
Smoking is one of the most damaging recreational behaviors commonly practiced. It is terrible for your teeth, increases oral cancer risk, and it can significantly increase your risk of chronic pain conditions like TMJ. Frequent smokers are more than twice as likely to develop some form of chronic pain, and even former smokers have a 20% higher risk of chronic pain.
Eating out frequently can contribute to inflammation in your joints, including your temporomandibular joint. Common contributors to inflammation risk that are found in restaurant food include salt, sugar, oils, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which has been significantly linked to TMJ flare-ups.
And be aware, many convenience foods you prepare at home also contain high levels of these inflammatory triggers. Whenever possible, it’s best to cook your food from scratch so you know what’s in it.
Seared steak is a great treat because of the way it locks in the juices and flavor of the meat. Unfortunately, seared meat contains AGEs, advanced glycation end products, which can aggravate jaw pain.
As your body tries to break down the AGEs, it releases inflammatory compounds that contribute to arthritis pain, including arthritis pain in the jaw joints. Avoiding seared meats can reduce your exposure to AGEs. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that something slow-cooked in a smoker is better for your BBQ fix–smoked foods also contain AGEs.
The snacks you choose can potentially increase your risk of TMJ. Some of these treats can include inflammatory compounds like salt, sugar, oils, and MSG.
But even if they don’t have these aggravating chemicals, your treats can lead to TMJ because they can tax your jaw. Popcorn and corn chips can be demanding to chew. In particular, unpopped popcorn kernels are so hard that they can put a lot of stress on your jaw joint. Chewing gum can also be damaging to your jaw joint if you chew it for too long.
Sometimes foods that are otherwise good for you can be bad for your jaw joint. Some raw vegetables are so hard and tough that they can cause jaw joint damage. Carrots, collards, and kale are good examples of healthy foods that can stress your jaw joints.
High Impact Exercise
Another healthy habit that can hurt your jaw joint is high-impact exercise, including the ever-more-popular running. Your jawbone doesn’t have any bones under it to help brace it from the impacts of the road. Instead, it’s suspended by the ligaments and muscles, which can be irritated by the repeated shocks.
Even some low impact exercise forms can be bad for your jaw if you have bad form. Weightlifting, for example, can lead to TMJ if you don’t have good form and tend to clench your jaw when lifting.
Don’t Let TMJ Slow You Down
Once you’ve begun developing TMJ, it can just get worse if left untreated. But with proper treatment, you can stop and sometimes even reverse the development of TMJ. Even if your lifestyle is contributing to your TMJ, there’s no reason why you should let TMJ impact your lifestyle.