Swimming is a favorite summer activity, especially here in beautiful Houston. But, if you have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, you may find swimming to be a painful excursion.
What does swimming have to do with your TMJ?
Swimming and Jaw Movement
Exercise is great for your health, and a low-impact activity like swimming is helpful for people with knee problems or arthritis. But if you have a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), swimming could be giving your jaw too much of a workout.
When you swim, your breathing is deep and carefully timed when you come up to the surface. Have you ever watched swimmers in competitions, or just doing laps in the pool? They open their mouths wide as they take a breath before going under again. This forceful opening and closing could spell trouble for a TMD patient.
When your jaw muscles are inflamed or irritated, repeated use can make the pain worse. If you notice that your jaw feels sore after swimming, breathing could be the reason. Try to find other forms of exercise that may be less stressful for your jaw until your TMD pain is under control.
In addition, using a snorkel may be fun, but biting down on an object for an extended period of time is certainly hard on the jaw. People with TMD often find that they cannot tolerate the pain of holding a snorkel or other object in their mouths.
Swimmer’s Ear and Your TMJ
Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. It’s often caused by water getting trapped inside the ear, where it allows bacteria to proliferate.
Swimmer’s ear can be related to jaw pain for two reasons. First, the ear is directly adjacent to your TMJ. Any pain or inflammation in the ear may affect the nearby jaw joint, resulting in pain when you use your jaw. Second, TMD often manifests as ear pain, so you may think you have an earache when you have TMD, and vice versa. Use caution when in the water to avoid getting water in your ears, or use swimmer’s earplugs.
Swimming and Staying Hydrated
Many people don’t think much about drinking water while they’re swimming. After all, the water is cool and they feel refreshed, so they’re not thirsty. But swimming in the summer heat means you are getting exercise and sweating, even if you don’t feel it.
Dehydration can certainly cause headaches – and so can TMD. Avoid a dehydration headache and a possible TMD flare-up by staying hydrated while swimming. Drinking at least eight glasses a day is a healthy habit to get into anyway. Keep your water bottle close by when you’re taking a dip – your jaw will thank you!
Finally, if you have an appliance for your TMD, ALWAYS remove it before swimming and keep it in a clean, safe place.
Don’t let TMJ pain interfere with your summer fun! If you’re experiencing jaw pain after swimming, we can help. Contact MedCenter TMJ to learn more about TMD and schedule your appointment!