Relieve Your TMJ Pain with Clinical Somatics

What is TMJ pain?

The temporomandibular joints connect the jawbone to the skull, and they are two of the most complicated joints in the human body. They can open and close the jaw like a hinge, and allow the jaw to slide from side to side and forward and backward.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can be caused by dysfunctional muscular patterns and chronic muscle tension. The dysfunctional patterns and muscle tension causing the jaw pain is generally not limited to the jaw. Many people with TMJ pain have habitual patterns of muscular tension and pain in their neck, shoulders, chest, back and abdominals as well.

What is causing or contributing to your TMJ pain?

As you go through your daily life, try to notice what could be causing or exacerbating your temporomandibular joint pain:

  • Stress, which often causes us to tighten our facial and jaw muscles and clench or grind our teeth, is one of the main causes of TMJ pain. Identify sources of stress and do your best to eliminate or reduce them. When you feel stressed, notice your physical reaction. Are you tightening the muscles in your jaw, face and upper body? Are you clenching or grinding your teeth? Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and try to release that physical tension.
  • Did your TMJ pain begin after an injury? If so, notice if your posture or movement has changed due to the injury. Notice if the injury has caused you to hold tension in your upper body, jaw and facial muscles. Clinical Somatics exercises will allow you to release that chronic tension and retrain your posture and movement.
  • Do you habitually pop or crack your jaw? If so, you need to stop this habit immediately. Popping and cracking your jaw will cause your pain to continue, no matter how diligently you practice Clinical Somatics exercises or pursue any treatment. Whenever you get the urge to pop or crack your jaw, I recommend doing one of the slow, gentle Somatics jaw exercises instead.

Addressing the Underlying Cause of TMJ Pain

In order to get lasting relief from TMJ pain, you need to work with your nervous system to retrain your muscular patterns and release your chronically tight muscles. You must engage in an active learning process consisting of slow, conscious movements.

Clinical Somatic Education uses extremely slow, focused movements to train the nervous system to release the learned muscular contraction that is causing or exacerbating your pain. By retraining your muscular patterns and releasing chronic tension, reducing your stress, and discontinuing habits such as popping and cracking your jaw, you can eliminate your TMJ pain and prevent it from returning.

To learn more about Clinical Somatic Education and how it works, click here.

The most effective Clinical Somatics exercises for relieving TMJ pain

If you are interested in learning Clinical Somatics exercises, the best way to start is with the Level One & Two Courses. These online courses teach Clinical Somatics exercises that release chronic tension throughout the body. The exercises are slow, gentle and suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities.

The following exercises from the Level One & Two Courses are the most effective exercises for releasing the tight muscles that are typically present in cases of TMJ pain.

In addition, if you feel that stress and anxiety are contributing to your TMJ pain, I recommend reading The Life-Changing Link Between Anxiety and Muscle Tension.


Arch & Flatten: This exercise allows you to release and regain control of the lower back and abdominal muscles, improving the alignment of the pelvis and lower back.

Back Lift: This exercise is practiced lying on the stomach, allowing you to most effectively pandiculate the muscles on the back side of your body.

Upper Trapezius Release: This exercise (found at the end of the Bonus: Ultimate Pandiculation video) is a wonderful way to focus on releasing tension in the upper trapezius.

Arch & Curl: This exercise releases the abdominal, chest, and neck muscles.

One-Sided Arch & Curl and Diagonal Arch & Curl: Like the Arch & Curl, these exercises release the abdominal, chest, and neck muscles. They focus on one side of your body at a time, allowing you to address imbalances in your muscular patterns.

Flowering Arch & Curl: This is a bigger, full-body version of the Arch & Curl. It has the added benefit of releasing internal rotation of the shoulders.


Head Lifts: This exercise works directly with releasing the muscles that pull the head forward, including the sternocleidomastoid and anterior scalene.

Proprioceptive Exercise 1: This is a seated exercise practiced in front of a mirror, allowing you to retrain your posture and proprioception.

Scapula Scoops 1 & 2: These exercises release the upper and middle trapezius, rhomboids, and pectorals.

Face & Jaw Exercises: These exercises release the muscles of the face and jaw.

Breathing Exercises: These exercises improve diaphragmatic breathing, which helps to reduce stress.