Essential Facts on TMD and Ergonomics, Part I

In the coming three weeks, our blog will explore the relationship between good posture, body movement and TMJ disorders. The medical term for this phenomenon is ergonomics. Specifically, this involves the study of the relationship between our bodies, the environment and objects around us.

PostureThis week, we will provide basic facts about ergonomics, including a list of general activities that can worsen TMJ pain. We will also discuss two areas in particular to watch out for. In the following weeks, we will examine ergonomics when driving a car and ergonomic information for work and home.

Why ergonomics?

It’s easy to assume that TMJ pain is brought on only by life’s stresses and worries. But routine daily activities can also exacerbate TMD symptoms. One of the most important factors related to TMJ disorders concerns how we move our bodies. As you know by now, headaches and TMJ discomfort often begin with tension originating from the head and neck.  Awareness of our body postures can do much to reverse the onset of TMJ pain.

Do you often repeat yourself?

One of the most important activities to avoid, either at work, in the home or recreationally, is repetitive stress motion. This involves actions which require one to stay in a fixed position for a long stretch of time. A list of all the occupations involving repetitive stress is lengthy and impossible to include here. Moreover, the list includes jobs few of us regularly engage in anyway, like operating a jackhammer or laying pipe.

But you may be shocked to discover the number of mundane tasks we perform every day that are repetitive in nature. This includes writing, driving, playing musical instruments, standing, using a knife to cut, talking on the phone, and bending over to clean, cook or water plants.

Postures to be Aware of

Repetitive motion adversely affects every part of the body, but for sufferers of TMJ disorders there are two areas in particular to pay close attention to.

First, poor posture often manifests itself as neck pain. The words “neck pain” loosely describes symptoms of sprains and strains of the neck, involving excess muscle tension and a stiff neck. Common symptoms to watch out for include stiffness, decreased range of motion, tingling and numbness. This numbness can be present not only along the neck muscles but also down the arm and hand.

Forward head posture is another important position to focus on. This involves slouched or stooped posture. More specifically, it is when the head and ears are forward toward the shoulders. This posture causes the back of the head and neck to tighten, which compresses the spine.

Next week, in Part II of our series on ergonomics, we will offer tips and suggestions to improve posture when driving a car. In Part III, we will explore tips for the home and office.


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