Try Unplugging to Reduce Jaw Pain

Aug 17, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

If you are experiencing jaw pain, there are many potential causes, but one you might not have considered is your smartphone. You might not realize all the many ways that your smartphone might be contributing to your jaw pain — and neck pain, too!

Here are five reasons that unplugging your smartphone can help you avoid jaw pain.

Work Stress

Cohort columnist Katie Hawkins-Gaar describes a stressful time in her life when she was suffering from regular bouts of anxiety, relied on antidepressants, and experienced near-constant jaw pain. She initially attributed this to her old job, which, she said, was causing her unbearable amounts of stress.

Smartphones can cause jaw pain

Unfortunately, she has noted that she’s beginning to experience the same symptoms at her new job. She realizes it wasn’t the job, it was her smartphone, and if she didn’t do anything about it, she would soon be back in the same state she thought she had escaped. The root of the problem is her smartphone. Her smartphone enabled her to be “at work” during every waking moment. As such, she has begun to feel that she has to always be at work, that she can’t afford to take any time off.

The good thing she realized: this is a self-imposed burden, and that she has the power to unplug and reduce her stress.

Social Stress

But it isn’t just work that increases our stress via our smartphone, it’s our friends, too. There are many ways that smartphones can increase your stress levels. First, there’s the basic ability of friends to impose their events on you with constant notifications, tags, and requests. This adds to the things you need to deal with on a daily basis.

Then there’s the tendency to compare yourself to others. If your friends are doing things and sharing pictures, it can make you feel like your life is less interesting or rewarding than theirs, which can increase your stress levels.

On the other hand, if friends are going through a stressful time in their lives, you can catch their stress. This doesn’t just go for people known to you personally — waves of stressful concern wash periodically over social networks, and they can catch you up in them.

And then there’s the persistent FoMO, fear of missing out, which keeps you from enjoying where you are because you constantly have to keep checking up on what others are doing and where.

Life Clutter

Certainly, both work and social media can clutter your life, but there are also dozens of other ways your smartphone can increase the clutter in your life. One way is that it can foster a celebrity addiction. You may find yourself following certain celebrities and constantly wanting to know what they’re up to. This obsession adds one more thing for you to be thinking and worried about, increasing your stress level.

And then there’s the dumb smartphone games that are designed to keep you getting on your phone and checking in on a daily, even hourly basis. You might know that it doesn’t matter whether you get that epic breeding island in Dragonvale, but once you start to think it’s important, it can significantly increase your stress level.

It is life clutter that led comedian Ari Shaffir to quit his smartphone “addiction” cold turkey. He realized his smartphone was taking up too much of his time and there were other things he would rather be doing.

Lack of Sleep

Smartphones can be very damaging to your sleep. With all this life clutter, there are so many things to check and keep up with that a quick glance at email before bed can cost you hours. It’s easy to spend time playing mindless games or scrolling endlessly through your newsfeeds rather than getting to bed. It might feel relaxing, but it’s not rejuvenating like sleep.

The light from the phone can also interfere with your sleep cycle. Because it’s a bluish light, it can reduce your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.

Many people use their smartphones as alarm clocks, too, but may leave notifications on. The constant sound of the notifications can create a sleep disturbance that keeps you from getting truly restful sleep.

Text Neck

The physical posture of using smartphones can also be hard on your neck and jaw. Our head is supposed to balance on the top of our spinal column. When you are constantly bending your head forward, it puts stress on your neck muscles, as well as those muscles that partner with them, such as the jaw muscles and the head muscles. This contributes not just to jaw pain, but also to tension headaches, a condition that is sometimes described as “text neck.”

The more time you spend looking down at your smartphone, the worse your headaches and jaw pain are likely to be.

You Can Unplug

If you think your smartphone is causing your jaw pain and headaches, maybe it’s time to try unplugging every now and then for a while. Tech CEO Steve Hilton who has lived without a cellphone for three years says, “I find the idea that we should all be connected and contactable all the time not just bizarre but menacing,” and compares it to a kind of digital jail that we’ve all imprisoned ourselves in. You don’t have to completely give up your smartphone to eliminate your jaw pain, maybe just cut back for a while.

And if that doesn’t take care of your jaw pain, maybe stress isn’t the root cause: you may have TMJ that was being aggravated by your stress. To learn what we can do about your TMJ in Dallas, please call (817) 481-6888 today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Becky Coats at BITE TMJ, Sleep, and Reconstruction in Grapevine.