If you wake up with tight jaw muscles, gently massaging your jaw muscles may help relieve the tension. And the ice rollers I normally use for skin-care purposes actually do the trick perfectly, I find.
I’ve never had a cavity, but the one dental issue I’ve had since my teen years is that I both clench and grind my teeth every night (and, sometimes, during the day). Since then, this unfortunate habit has contributed to gum recession that required surgery as well as incredibly sore, tight jaw muscles despite diligently wearing a night guard. Sometimes I don’t even notice how tense the muscles are until I go to have my first sip of coffee in the morning and realize I can’t really open my mouth. It’s a fun (read: anxiety-spiking and incredibly painful) way to wake up!
Why does this happen? Well, the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) on either side of your skull are responsible for hinging in a way that allows your mouth to open and close properly, the Mayo Clinic says. If you hurt your jaw, develop a bone or connective tissue disorder, or are a chronic tooth grinder or jaw clencher, that can cause some serious problems for the joint as well as the cartilage and shock-absorbing disc within it.
Over time you might notice an aching pain in the joint as well as an inability to fully open your mouth that makes it difficult to eat comfortably. This can also cause pain deep or around the ear and even in your teeth. In fact, TMJ disorders are one of a few common causes of frequent morning headaches.
There are different types of TMJ disorders, so it really pays to get properly evaluated by a doctor before trying to treat your issue yourself. But those treatments might include things like pain medication, prescription muscle relaxants, or stress-management techniques. On the more severe end, you might find that Botox injections or surgical procedures are necessary.
Depending on the cause, if you’re dealing with some pain and inflammation caused by clenching or grinding, your doctor might suggest trying to ease some of that aching with regular jaw exercises and massages. In fact, you can actually feel the joint quite easily by using your fingers to feel for a bulge and a gap beneath it in the bones directly in front of your ears. That little notch in each cheekbone is the perfect place to start gently massaging the masseter muscle, the large muscle in the cheek that can become tight and stiff with TMJ issues.
In addition to massaging that area with myfingers, I’ve come to rely on facial ice rollers to really chill the muscle out. These facial massage tools are generally made of metal or any other substance that holds a cold temperature that are chilled and then used on the face. In the realm of skin care, they might be used to calm some inflammation (for instance, I like to use them when my face feels flush with rosacea) and, supposedly, to reduce puffiness and pore size.
But, for me, the most welcome benefit is that using an ice roller just feels nice—especially when my TMJ and masseter muscle are misbehaving. But the key, as with any facial massage, is to do it gently. Going too intense with the pressure risks injuring your skin or your muscles further.
When you’re ready, here are a few popular ice rollers to get you started.Kitsch Facial Ice RollerI was sent a sample of this no-frills roller a few months ago, and it has quickly become my go-to ice roller. It’s basic but also effective with an easy-to-clean stainless steel roller. The instructions say to keep it in the freezer, but I find that it gets plenty cold in the fridge.$18 at ShopbopStackedSkincare Ice RollerThis popular ice roller also has a stainless steel roller, but one that’s filled with a gel that freezes and keeps it cold for longer. Like basically all rolling facial tools, this one has a tendency to squeak that can be easily fixed by applying a little facial oil to the joints.$30 at AmazonEsarora Ice RollerThis roller gets the job done and comes in a bunch of fun, bright colors, so it won’t get lost in your freezer. You can also buy slightly more expensive versions that come with two rollers—one that’s steel and one that’s plastic—to see which feels better for your skin.$20 at Amazon
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