Eczema and Jaw Locking
I remember the first time I heard of anyone’s “jaw locking” in college. One of my roommates constantly spoke out loud about the pain and the discomfort it brought her. I remember thinking, “Wow, I can only imagine what that feels like,” not realizing that I would soon find out.
This or That
Which eczema misconception is more hurtful?
What is TMJ or “jaw locking”?
Jaw locking, also known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), is a condition that affects the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments.1 Some of the most common TMJ symptoms that I have experienced are jaw pain, headaches, difficulty chewing or opening my mouth, clicking or popping, and changes in the way my teeth fit together.
I never had this issue growing up, so when I reflected on the first time I started experiencing jaw locking, combined with some research I did on my own, things began to add up.
Causes of TMJ
According to many resources online, TMJ is caused but is not limited by, teeth grinding/clenching, stress, acute trauma, and arthritis in the jaw.1
My experience with jaw locking and TSW
It made sense as I began experiencing my jaw locking up during topical steroid withdrawal (TSW). Due to the unbearable itchiness of TSW, I would often tense up my face and clench my teeth down to try and control myself from scratching (even though my willpower usually submitted). Even now, I can picture what my face looked like every time I was in pain and scratching profusely. I would squint my eyes to the point where I could just barely see, scrunch up my nose, and tightly clench my teeth, creating tension within my jaw.
Stress and trauma
In addition, TSW also brought immense stress and unwanted trauma that I am still healing from today. The process of losing oneself, both mentally and physically, during TSW was gruesome, raw, and unimaginable.
So even though I haven’t experienced TSW symptoms for almost four years now, I am still feeling the after-effects of TMJ. It’s like my jaw is experiencing its own PTSD long after TSW has been resolved.
As a result, I have been more conscious of when my jaw is tensing up so I can replace that tension with a healthier alternative like moving my body in moments of stress or simply doing breathing exercises to release any tension in my jaw.
Tips for managing TMJ
If you’re experiencing similar symptoms, here are a few ways to manage your TMJ or jaw locking:
- Stretching exercises for the jaw: My dentist has instructed me to do exercises to strengthen my jaw. One of them is slightly clenching my teeth together and moving my bottom teeth forward and back.
- Relaxation techniques: Mindfulness practices or meditation have supported me in relaxing any tensed-up muscles. It works both in preventing jaw lock as well as treating it after it has occurred.
- Eat soft foods: I am more conscious than ever about the textures of the foods I eat. I try to stick to things that are easier to chew and lighter on my jaw, like yogurt, beans, grains, and soup.
All in all, it’s important to visit a dentist if you experience immense pain and discomfort.
QUESTION: Have you experienced other bodily discomforts (short or long-term) due to your eczema or TSW experience? If so, what have they been? Share below!
Life with atopic dermatitis can be frustrating. Will you help others understand by taking our survey (US only)?
Join the conversation