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The Best...and worst...Food for TMJ in Springfield, IL

There are few things more satisfying than a perfectly cooked steak with some garlicky mashed potatoes or a warm toasted bagel with herbed cream cheese or a chicken pot pie.


Or a bowl of Haagen Daas peanut butter banana ice cream.


The truth is that food is a wonderful perk of being alive. Food is essential for healthy fuel but it can also be a heck of a good time. As a chiropractor for TMJ pain in Springfield Illinois, I know how devastating it can be when pain gets in the way of enjoying one of life’s top three best qualities. (The other two being a good night’s sleep and a Law and Order marathon on the USA Network.)


The temporomandibular joint is the ball and socket joint where the upper jaw meets the lower jaw. Chiropractors are joint experts, though a lot of people fail to realize that the TMJ falls in our area of expertise. They think that they just have to suffer through the pain or pop enough pills until they forget the pain…and their own name. I’ve even had patients cut their food into teeny tiny little pieces or try to liquify a Whopper, to which I say:


Those strategies, while hilarious to hear about, are completely unnecessary. How one eats is important, but what one eats is just as important to make sure the body is getting the nutrients necessary to heal. Here are some of the best and worst foods to eat if searching for TMJ pain relief to get back to chicken salad sandwiches and chocolate covered coconut almonds.

Foods to Avoid with TMJ Disorder

Chewing strains the TMJ and can exacerbate pain. Experience is often a good indicator of which foods to avoid. But if this is the inaugural event, some of the worst foods for TMJ pain are:

  • Chewy or sticky candy, like gum
  • Crusty bread, bagels, and chewy baked goods (the best kind of baked good)
  • Hard fruits and vegetables
  • Chewy or tough meat
  • Nuts
  • Ice (great for a cold compress or delicious cocktail, but biting ice is not encouraged)

Crunchy, chewy, and tough foods are kind of a no-brainer, but it’s best to also avoid anything that requires a big bite – sandwiches, burgers, corn on the cob.


Best Foods for TMJ Disorder

Yes, a soft food diet makes logical sense, but there are only so many scrambled eggs and smoothies a person can take. Taking a more holistic approach to nutrition may be beneficial for pain management as well as giving the body what it needs to heal. Eating a diet that causes inflammation in the body can aggravate TMJ pain. So, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help joint pain, not only in the jaw but all over the body. Inflammation is the cause of disease. If inflammation were to be personified it would look something like this:


A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods includes:

  • Soft fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Healthy fats
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

A diet rich in inflammatory foods includes:

  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Fried foods
  • Trans fats


They don’t have to be completely off-limits but know that they have effects on TMJ pain. They can make the problem worse and delay healing. It’s worth noting that a typical TMJ diet might encourage pudding, ice cream, and mashed potatoes. While I can’t disagree that those probably won’t aggravate TMJ pain, and they’ll most likely taste delicious, the subsequent inflammation won’t help address the root cause of the pain.


No, pain is the monster. Pain is debilitating. Pain is annoying. Pain is frustrating. Pain ruins everything. I’m an angel, just ask my mom.

The Best TMJ Treatment

Using a combination of ice and heat is usually recommended to help with swelling and pain. They’re a great duo like Ben and Jerry, Tom and Jerry, and Hota and Kathy Lee. Avoiding TMJ triggers is also helpful, not just when it comes to food but also when it comes to stress. Stress can trigger flare-ups of pain, inflammation, and tension throughout the body. Just don’t be stressed that you’re stressed, because those people are not fun to hang out with.


Maintaining good posture is also a great way to combat TMJ pain.

  • Use a headset when on the phone
  • Practice good workspace ergonomics – lower back supported, computer monitor at eye level, frequent breaks to stretch and rest
  • Maintain neutral head position – don’t slouch or crane neck forward
  • Use a supportive pillow while sleeping

It may sound weird or self-serving to talk about posture when dealing with a jaw issue, but one of the underlying issues that cause TMJ pain is a misalignment in the cervical spine. Misalignments in the spine can cause nerve irritation, postural changes, and muscle tension that forces the body to compensate adding unnecessary stress to the jaw muscles. A chiropractic adjustment to correct these misalignments is the best treatment for TMJ pain as it gets to the root cause of the issue. It reduces pain and discomfort as well as relieves TMJ disorder co-conspirators like neck pain, headaches, and earaches.


No one wants to be told that they can’t eat like a king…or queen. Chiropractic care is the best long-term, natural solution for TMJ pain. At the Springfield Wellness Center, we have many chiropractic treatment options to heal those suffering from a temporomandibular disorder to find relief. Call us or schedule a time to meet with one of our amazing doctors. Then on the way home stop at all of your favorite haunts and order one of each. You deserve it!

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