woman rubs her neck while sitting in a home office

Blog

Sitting All Day May Be Causing Your Jaw Pain

Posted By Virginia Wirth-Pattullo & Christopher Corazzi

Body

Have you noticed tension in your jaw, face or neck? Headaches? Clicking or popping while chewing? Pain when yawning? These symptoms may be associated a condition known as Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMJ — and may be linked with prolonged sitting or postural changes.

Here are three tips that can help:

  1. Check your posture. Like a strong building, our bodies need a good foundation.
    • First, support your lower back with a small pillow or lumbar support. This can decrease stresses on the spine and help avoid the “rounded” position many of us end up in.
    • From there, gently bring the shoulders back so they are centered over your hips. This will naturally help bring your head and neck in line with your shoulders, and decrease tension.
    • When sitting with good posture, the jaw can relax into what is called the “TMJ rest position.” Being in this position helps decrease stresses on the jaw muscles and TMJ structures. You’ll know you’re in the TMJ rest position when your:
      1. Tongue is gently resting up on the roof of the mouth.
      2. Teeth are slightly apart.
      3. Lips are together.
  2. Look at your ergonomics. If you are working from home, using the couch or bed may be comfortable, but over time may also end up causing aches and pains. Even your kitchen table may need adjustments to be an ideal work-from-home spot. Instead, follow these guidelines to improve your work setup:
    • Sit in a supportive chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms on the armrests. This will help you better achieve the posture described above.
    • The top of your computer screen should be at eye level or around two or three inches below eye level. This will help avoid the “forward head” posture described above.
    • If you’re on a laptop, use a separate keyboard to keep your arms relaxed and down at your sides, which will prevent tension in your shoulders.
  3. Move and breathe. Sheltering in place and working from home can bring on more stress in our lives. When stressed, people often clench their jaw, tense their neck and shoulders, and breathe shallowly. Over time, this can lead to pain. Simply taking time to breathe deeply and stand up can make a huge difference.
    • Take one or two minutes breaks throughout the day to take deep, slow breaths. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth for at least four to six counts each can help decrease the stress and tension throughout your entire body. 
    • Get up to walk or stretch every hour. Even just a few minutes on your feet will help.
    • If you need reminders for when to breathe and stand up, consider downloading a smartphone app.

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is now offering physician and therapy TeleHealth appointments to provide patients easy access to our expert clinical teams. New and existing outpatients can schedule an appointment at 312.238.1000 or here.

Meet the Authors

Save now, read later.