Self-Care Suggestions for Masticatory Arthalgia & Myalgia
Apply moist heat or cold, whichever feels better, to the joint or muscles that are sore. Heat or ice applications used for 10 – 20 minutes, 3 – 4 times per day can reduce joint/muscle pain and relax the muscles. For heat, microwave a wet towel for approximately 1 minute or until the towel is warm. You can also wrap this moist hot towel around a hot- water bottle to keep it warm longer. For cold, use ice wrapped in a thin wash cloth. Keep ice on the painful area only until you first feel some numbness, but more than 5 minutes.
Eat a soft, pain-free diet. Avoid hard foods, such as French Bread or bagels. Avoid chewy food such as steak or boiled sweets. Cut fruits and steamed vegetables into small pieces. Do not chew gum.
Chew your food on both sides at the same time or alternate sides to reduce strain on one side. Chew with your back teeth rather than biting with your front teeth.
Avoid oral habits that put strain on the jaw muscles and joints. These include teeth clenching or grinding, teeth touching or resting together, biting cheeks or lips, tongue pushing against teeth, jaw tensing, biting objects and other habits. Note if you do these while you exercise or work and then modify your habits.
Keep your tongue up, teeth apart and jaw muscles relaxed. You must avoid clenching and grinding your teeth. You should closely monitor your jaw position during the day so that you can maintain your jaw in a relaxed, comfortable position. This involves placing the tongue lightly on the palate behind your upper front teeth, allowing the teeth to come apart and relaxing the jaw muscles.
Learn and practice relaxation and abdominal breathing. This will help reduce your reactions to stressful life events.
Identify the events that trigger the pain. Use a ‘pain diary’ to review daily activities that aggravate the pain and modify your behaviour accordingly.
Get a good night’s sleep. Manage your sleep environment. Reduce light and noise and lie on a comfortable mattress. For parents of infants, plan an occasional night when you are not responsible for the baby. Reduce stimulating activities in the late evening. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can disturb sleep and increase muscle tension.
Avoid activities that strain your jaw, such as resting your jaw on your hand, excessive singing or use of musical instruments, if they aggravate the pain.
Avoid activities that involve wide opening of the mouth (such as yawning, prolonged dental treatment etc) for a period of time until the pain has reduced.
Use anti-inflammatories and analgesics such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to reduce joint and muscle pain or diclofenac or ibuprofen gels applied to the chewing muscles / jaw joints.