Jaw injuries often do not come to mind when someone thinks of risks associated with mountain biking, but it is something to consider. Imagine getting your wheel caught and landing face forward on the ground. That energy has to go somewhere and if your face is the first to hit the ground then your jaw is extremely susceptible to injuries including joint damage that may cause TMJ.
Methods of Prevention
One thing to consider when you are mountain biking is your headgear. Ideally, you will be wearing something that covers your head and face. Think something along the lines of a dirt bike helmet. This will help absorb the shock of impact anywhere on your head, including your jaw. If you are worried about damage to your teeth, then a mouthpiece is a good solution.
Also, remember that you don’t need a direct blow to the jaw to develop TMJ. The constant bumping down the trail causes stress on the jaw joint. The jaw is one of the few bones in your body that hangs suspended without direct support from other bones. As a result, the muscles, tendons, and cartilage that are supposed to move and protect your jaw also have the responsibility of providing support, too. They can become inflamed and tender from bouncing too rough.
When to Seek Treatment
Whether you face planted on your mountain bike or are experiencing shooting pains in your jaw that aren’t connected to any direct trauma, the sooner you get treatment for TMJ, the better. It is important to seek medical attention if you notice some of these troubling symptoms:
- Migraines and tension headaches: Both these types of headaches are associated with TMJ. Migraines cause debilitating pain and often come with sensitivity to light, smells, and sounds. Tension headaches are related to overactive muscles in the head and jaw and feel like your head is being squeezed tightly.
- Trouble Chewing/Swallowing: TMJ often causes issues with chewing and swallowing. It goes without saying that this can cause a major issue with your health as this affects food and water intake.
- Numbness in Hands/Feet: We typically don’t consider looking to our hands and feet to indicate how our jaw is doing, but this has proven to be a symptom of TMJ. This is because TMJ can cause your jaw to become misaligned, which may cause your neck and shoulders to compensate for the crookedness. This crookedness in your neck and shoulders can cause nerve damage which, you guessed it, affects your hands and feet.
Brush Yourself Off!
We have all heard that old saying, “Dust yourself off and try again!” Just as mountain bikers have taken knocks and got back up, there is no reason to simply live with TMJ because it is treatable!