TMJ and Snow ShovelingThe worst of the snow may have missed the Philadelphia area this time, but there’s a lot of winter left, and the odds are pretty good that we’re going to get a few more bad storms before spring. Snow doesn’t just mean poor road conditions, delays at the airport, and surprise days when the kids are home, it means you have to get out there and clear it. And for many of us, shoveling snow is a different type of activity than we’re used to.

If shoveling snow causes you to feel not just back pain, but jaw pain and headaches, the problem might be related to TMJ.

Smart Shoveling

The first thing you should do if you are experiencing soreness and pain from shoveling snow is to make sure you are using proper techniques for shoveling the snow. Bad form can cause lead to additional exertion and possible injury.

  • Make sure the shovel length is appropriate for your height. If you’re bending down too much when shoveling, it puts your back at a disadvantage for doing the work.
  • If you’re straining to lift the snow, your shovel is too full. Remember, if the snow is denser, you should pick up less of it with each shovel.
  • Lift with your knees, not your back, and use your abs to help stabilize your core and facilitate lifting.
  • Twisting and bending are hard on your back–try to limit them.
  • Rather than throwing the snow, walk it to where you want to pile it. If you have to throw snow, step in the direction of the throw.
  • Take frequent breaks, even if you don’t think you’re tired. On breaks, flex your back backward to balance the amount of forward bending you’re doing.

If you try these techniques, but you’re still suffering back pain and related problems, you should talk to your doctor and consider the possibility that TMJ might be to blame.

Is It TMJ?

It can be hard to believe that your jaw is actually important to the work of shoveling snow–after all, you’re not moving the snow with your mouth, right? But the truth is that whenever your body tries to leverage its strength, it employs your jaw to help brace and stabilize your head, neck, and spine. If your jaw isn’t properly aligned, this clamping down can be painful to jaw muscles and potentially damaging to teeth. And it can lead to headaches when your jaw muscles pass on their stress to partner muscles in the head. And because your body may be less efficient, your back muscles may be working harder than they should be, resulting in excess back pain.

Stabilizing your jaw joint can help not just in shoveling snow, but in many daily tasks that rely on strength or balance. To learn whether TMJ treatment can help you, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment with a Philadelphia TMJ dentist at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell today.