Hot and Cool Therapy in a Pinch

The benefits of heat and cold for pain relief can be very helpful when you’re dealing with temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Heat and cold are effective ways to soothe a sore jaw without side effects or much expense.

Applying cold to sore muscles and joints can help calm inflammation and swelling, which can lead to quick pain relief. When you strain or sprain a muscle, often you’ll be told to ice it right away to calm the body’s natural response to inflame and swell. This can promote faster healing of an injury.

The Benefits of Heat and Cold

The same principle applies to your hard-working jaw muscles! If it feels sore after a period of stress or grinding, or you ate something that wasn’t exactly TMJ-friendly, a cold pack can provide you with much-needed relief. The cold may also be beneficial if you feel overheated from stress.

Conversely, heat can be a wonderful way to soothe joints as well. It promotes blood flow to help muscles heal and can reduce muscle tightening and spasms. It may also interfere with your brain’s pain signals.

Whether you choose heat or cold may depend on your specific needs and preference. Some people who are naturally “cold” will not like the sensation of cold on their face. If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s probably not the best time to apply a heating pad. You may have to do some trial and error: listen to your jaw and do what feels best. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to ask us! We can give you personalized recommendations that are included in your comprehensive TMD treatment plan.

Make Your Own in a Pinch

But what happens if you really need some relief and don’t have a heating pad or cold pack on hand? There are a number of options you can make yourself with common household items.

DIY cold packs:

  • A bag of frozen veggies such as peas
  • A metal water bottle or container with cold water inside
  • Mix water and a small amount of rubbing alcohol in a sealed baggie and freeze: the alcohol allows the water to stay a slushy consistency that’s malleable

DIY heat packs:

  1. Fill a sock or leg warmer and with dried corn, flaxseed or rice.
  2. Tie the ends shut.
  3. Microwave for 1 minute on high heat and check the temperature. If it’s not hot enough, continue heating in 30 second intervals.
  4. Make sure the pack feels warm but never too hot to touch.

A warm cup of decaffeinated tea or coffee can also provide a soothing, warming sensation when you can’t get your hands on a hot pack. This is especially relaxing on chilly days!

Don’t let TMD take hold of your life. Contact MedCenter TMJ to learn how you can alleviate jaw pain and other symptoms so you can get back to doing what you love.

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