The TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ears. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TJDs) are problems that affect the joint between the lower jaw and the base of the skull. Though not usually a serious condition, symptoms can impact significantly on quality of life.
It has been estimated that approximately 20-30% of the adult population will experience a TJD at some point. Symptoms usually last for a few months before getting better, with symptoms including clicking, popping or grating noises as you chew or move your mouth; muscle spasms around the jaw; pain in front of the ear that may spread to the cheek, ear and temple; difficulty opening the mouth – the jaw may feel tight, as if it is stuck, making eating difficult or you may experience headaches or earaches.
The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. It may also be caused by excessive dental work, having to keep the mouth open for an extended period of time may cause the muscles to over tighten.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash injury – can cause TMD. Other possible causes include: grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ; The presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the joint; Stress, which can cause over activity of the jaw muscles due to clenching of the teeth.
Most TMJ disorders improve over time and do not get worse. It is very rare to get any complications with this condition. Some people do have symptoms that last longer or come back, but even these can usually be improved with treatment that may involve manual stretching of the jaw muscles; the masseter muscles outside the face and sometimes the pterygoid muscles inside the mouth.
Sources: www.webmd.com, www.nhs.uk, www.mayoclinic.com, www.patient.co.uk
According to the National Institute of Health data, roughly 6-percent of us living in northern climates suffer from seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), whilst approximately 14-percent of that same population experiences milder seasonal mood changes, or winter blues. Common signs and symptoms include:-
A draining and sudden lack of energy for no apparent reason may be your first indication that something is amiss, feelings of both mental and physical fatigue, as well as a weighted feeling throughout the entire body that makes otherwise easy activities and tasks completely exhausting.
Lack of focus
Issues with memory and concentration may also indicate SAD. Many describe this lack of focus as difficulties with remembering appointments to the more severe inability to make simple and routine decisions i.e. what to wear or eat.
Sudden changes in sleep patterns—which can range from sleeping all the time (hypersomnia) to not sleeping at all (insomnia)—will often indicate an issue if health is otherwise good. You may notice that you wake up frequently throughout the night or wake exhausted even though you slept 8 hours.
Joint & Muscle Pain
Neck, back, knees, hips, shoulders, headaches, and stomach upset—everything suddenly hurts for no apparent reason
Many SAD sufferers complain of being on an emotional rollercoaster where one minute they are in tears and the next minute they are overcome with anger. You may also feel agitated and restless, but not understand why or what to do to soothe this irritability. The anxiety that spreads through SAD sufferers can range from a mild restlessness to severe stress and jitters.
Weight & Appetite
You may experience sudden and significant weight loss or weight gain without a change in health, diet, or activity level in a matter of a few weeks, and you may lose all interest in food or use food as a way to comfort your emotions.
But it’s not all doom and gloom there are lots of ways to counteract these debilitating signs and symptoms.
Try a Light Box
If you suffer from mild or severe winter blues, light boxes expose you to light (at 10-times the degree of household lighting) and have been proven to reduce the symptoms of SAD.
A light box is meant to supplement actual daylight exposure when the days are longer and darker. You can set your light box to the desired (to emit anywhere between half an hour to 2-hours of happy light).
While you may supplement your normal light exposure with a light box or a vitamin D supplement—it’s still vital that you get outside as much as possible in winter. After all, vitamin D (aka: the sunshine vitamin) is most effectively absorbed via the skin.
Use this as an excuse to get out for some fresh air and sunlight. Go for a winter hike, bike ride or make use of outdoor ice rinks. Daily aerobic exercise won’t only help you stay fit and energetic during winter—it will also lift your mental spirits (thanks to happy endorphins) as well. We already know that morning exercise can help boost your energy levels, mood, and metabolism for the day ahead. That’s why, even if you can’t get out for a run every day mid-winter—a morning walk especially on a clear sunny day will do the trick! It will take roughly 3 days of sun exposure outside to reverse those winter blues.
Eat for Better Hormone Balance
In addition to your circadian rhythms, the hormone melatonin greatly impacts your need to sleep and hibernate during winter. It also affects your sleeping-waking schedule, your mood, your energy levels, and the risk of seasonal affective disorder.
Your body emits greater amounts of melatonin during the dark, cold months of winter, which explains your need to bundle up on the couch and not emerge until spring. According to research from the University of Texas, certain foods (i.e., almonds, walnuts, and lettuce) naturally promote sleep.
Avoid Overloading On Carbs
During the winter, you’re likely to turn to comfort foods filled with carbohydrates and that sit heavily in your stomach. Pastas and breads, mashed potatoes and pies, can tempt you to overload on carbs. While it isn’t necessary to cut out carbs completely from your diet, having too much can worsen your symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Carbs can make you cathartic, directly affecting your mood with the spike—and inevitable drop—in your glucose level. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, protein and fiber. Get as much of the good stuff as you can and cut back on the carbs if you’re feeling sleepy and lazy a lot throughout the winter.
Stick to a Schedule
When it comes to work, sleep, exercise, and eating one thing is very important: doing these things on schedule. So do your best in winter to resist the urge to stay up too late or sleep in too long. The same goes for eating too much and eating healthy, balanced meals throughout the day.
Establishing and sticking to a regular schedule when it comes to sleep, physical activity, and eating will ensure your circadian rhythms stay balanced. Circadian rhythms are essentially your body’s internal clock. These 24-hour rhythms respond primarily to light and darkness (which is why regular sleep is essential) and affect you physically and mentally.
Stretching is an activity we strongly advise to be used by athletes, older adults, rehabilitation patients, and anyone participating in a fitness program.
Passive stretches are muscle stretches that are performed with the aid of equipment or a partner to hold the limb in place. Dynamic stretching involves moving the limb from the neutral position to the end range position and then moving back to the neutral position. Dynamic actions are carried out in a smooth and controlled manner (Murphy, 1994). A static stretch, however, is performed by moving muscles to their greatest possible length and holding them there for a period of time (Anderson & Burke, 1991).
Obviously, there are many factors and reasons for reduced joint range of motion, only one of which is muscular tightness. Muscle tightness results from an increase in tension from active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles can become shortened through postural adaptation (sitting all day) or scarring; actively, muscles can become shorter due to spasm or contraction. Regardless of the cause, tightness limits range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance (Page P, 2012).
Static stretching is effective at increasing range of movement. The greatest change in range of motion with a static stretch occurs between 15 and 30 seconds (McHugh, et al. 1992; Bandy & Irion, 1994); most authors suggest that 10 to 30 seconds is sufficient for increasing flexibility (Bandy & Irion, 1994; Cipriani et al., 2003). In addition, no increase in muscle elongation occurs after 2 to 4 repetitions (Taylor et al., 1990).
Stretching is also usually incorporated pre-exercise as it has been suggested to improve muscle flexibility, prevent muscle injury and enhance physical performance (as cited in O’Sullivan, Murray & Sainsbury, 2009). Though other studies have shown passive stretching prior to exercise can reduce performance by up to 20% (American Journal of Applied Physiology)
We recommend that everybody, regardless of your activity level and especially those over 65 years old, should incorporate static stretching into daily regime to help maintain joint health, range of movement and overall flexibility. This should enable you to maintain flexibility into later life.
Anderson, B.A., & Burke, E.R. (1991). Scientific, Medical, and Practical Aspects of Stretching. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 10(1), 63-86.
Bandy, W. D. & Irion, J. M. (1994) The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Physical Therapy. 74(9):845-50; discussion 850-2
Cipriani, D., Abel, B. & Pirrwitz, D. (2003) A comparison of two stretching protocols on hip range of motion: implications for total daily stretch duration. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17(2):274-8.
McHugh, M. P., Magnusson, S. P., Gleim, G. W. & Nicholas, J. A. (1992) Viscoelastic stress relaxation in human skeletal muscle. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 24(12):1375-82.
Murphy, D.R. (1994). Dynamic Range of Motion Training: An Alternative to Static Stretching. Chiropractic Sports Medicine, 8(2), 59-66.
O’Sullivan, K., Murray, E., & Sainsbury, D. (2009). The effect of warm-up, static stretching and dynamic stretching on hamstring flexibility in previously injured subjects. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-37
Page, P. (2012) Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 7(1): 109–119.
Taylor, D. C., Dalton, J. D. Jr, Seaber, A. V. & Garrett, W. E. Jr (1990) Viscoelastic properties of muscle-tendon units. The biomechanical effects of stretching. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 18(3):300-9.