Improve Your Workouts And Lessen TMJ Pain With Six Exercises

Mariano Rocabado, DPT is a physical therapist who specializes in problems with the head, neck and spines. His work with Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ or TMD) is very extensive, and he developed an exercise program that is taught to all over the world to address postural relationships with the head to neck, neck to shoulders and lower jaw to upper jaw. The objective of this home exercise program is for patients to learn a new postural position, fight the soft tissue memory of the old position, restore the original muscle length-tension relationships, restore normal joint mobility and restore normal body balance.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a term which encompasses inflammatory disorders of the jaw. Symptoms of TMJ may include headache, earache, neck pain, jaw tenderness and clicking or aching facial muscles. TMJ usually occurs when the muscles used for chewing and your jaw joint are out of balance.  The cause of TMJ is most commonly improper alignment of your teeth, and is exacerbated by stress and tooth grinding.

What is most interesting is that when the body’s posture is corrected, amazing things happen with regard to strength, flexibility and balance.  Similarly, there are bite appliances which place the jaw in its “physiologic” neuromuscular position.  Such appliances are used not only to treat TMJ but are also worn by athletes of all kinds to improve their performance – golfers, basketball players, football players, etc.  I have seen demonstrations of such “instant” improvements and they are amazing.  Feel free to ask me for a demonstration the next time that you visit the office.

I began using one of these exercises during my workouts in cycle classes which I have grown to love.  These spin classes have been the core of my cardiovascular exercise for many years now.  Proper posture improves performance while exercising and playing sports, and I find that that there is a simple maneuver to help ensure good body position to allow me to get the most of my workouts.  It’s the last exercise in the series described below.

Rocabado advocates that the program be performed by the patient at home, and it consists of six different exercises and six repetitions of each exercise, performed six times per day until symptoms subside. The Rocabado exercises emphasize correct postural position and help to combat the soft tissue memory of your old posture. Perform the exercises one after the other until your session is complete. It will take about one minute.

The six exercises:

  1. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Position the tip just behind your teeth and take six deep breaths.
  2. Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth and open and close your mouth six times.
  3. Your tongue remains on the roof of your mouth and two fingers are placed on the chin to open your mouth against gentle resistance. Following that, place your fingers on both sides of your jaw and move the jaw sideways six times.
  4. Place your hands behind your neck and bend your chin down as if nodding your head.
  5. Move your chin down and back as if making a double chin.
  6. Finally, correct your posture by lifting your ribs and chest upward while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Perform six repetitions of these exercises six times a day.

Give these exercises a try.  If you feel pain while performing these exercises, stop doing them and consider calling us to arrange a TMJ screening or consultation about your symptoms.  If you have questions, feel free to call us at 908.359.6655 or send us an email via our website at