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Don’t Let the Holidays Stress Your TMJ

December 16, 2014

The holiday season should be a happy time with family, friends, parties, gifts and sharing memories. Along with all the fun, there often comes some added physical and emotional stress that can have adverse effects on people living with TMJ; and the holiday season is not the time to be sidelined with pain.

TMJ Holiday Stress_ Dec BlogDifferent things can trigger stress in different people, and if you’re suffering from TMJ, stress can escalate your symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know and anticipate what stress triggers you or a loved one with TMJ symptoms are prone to. Below are some common holiday stress inducers and ways to prevent them from increasing your TMJ.

Travel — Whether it is sitting in a vehicle driving long distances, flying on an airplane to your holiday festivities or just taking additional trips around town, the added travel, uncomfortable seats and unhappy travel companions and strangers can all significantly increase physical and emotional stress in the average person.

• Try bringing a neck pillow or other comfortable pillows to use while sitting on an airplane or in a car for hours, or a pillow to provide relief for your back. If air travel is your method, be sure to stand up and move throughout the trip as the constant, typically uncomfortable position of your head, neck and back can cause strain on your muscles.

Parties — Whether hosting or attending holiday parties for friends, family or business, these get-togethers and the preparation, activities and mingling that comes with them can bring on stress and anxiety that can make your TMJ symptoms worse.

• If you’re hosting, try to delegate some of the responsibility to helpful friends, neighbors and family members. The food is often half the fun of holiday parties, but can also cause unnecessary pain. Avoid sticky, extremely chewy or very hard candies or foods, as hard as that may be. Have fun, but know your limit and don’t push yourself.

Decorating & Shopping — Hauling large trees from tree lots or basements, stringing lights, unpacking boxes of holiday decorations and carrying around everyone’s gifts puts physical stress on your body, particularly near the neck and upper back areas, which can directly impact TMJ pain.

• Try to prepare yourself for the big shopping trips and spread it out over several trips. Online shopping also eliminates the physical and emotional stress of shopping at stores and malls. Ask for decorating help for some of the heavier or more physically demanding tasks so you can focus on the ones that will cause less physical stress.

While completely eliminating activities that cause stress may not be an option, and probably wouldn’t be a very fun holiday season, minor adjustments and preparations can reduce the impact of these stress triggers.

Everyone at the TMJ Treatment Center wants people living with TMJ and their loved ones to have a very happy holiday season, enjoying the festivities with as little pain and discomfort as possible. If you aren’t sure if your symptoms are TMJ, or find the holidays are causing TMJ-like issues, contact Dr. Mitakides, one of the most accredited and experienced TMJ practitioners in the country.