When you live in a stunning location like Bend, Oregon, there’s no better way to explore it than by bike. Whether you’re pedaling through beautiful forests, crisscrossing high deserts, or taking in the majestic peaks of the Cascade Range, there’s no shortage of gorgeous trails in and around Bend. However, for those who suffer from Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, the act of cycling can be more painful than pleasurable.

What is TMJ?

TMJ disorder is categorized by painful and limited movement in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Some who suffer from the disorder might also experience clicking or popping within the joint. Causes of TMJ vary, but can include jaw injuries, arthritis, teeth grinding, stress, poor posture, or even a misalignment in the jaw itself. Because cycling requires the strength of the neck and jaw, TMJ can make it difficult and even painful for some to ride.

How Cycling Can Affect TMJ

Cycling not only causes the muscles in the legs, back, and arms to be activated, but also engages the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and jaw. When cycling for an extended amount of time, those muscles can become overworked, resulting in pain or stiffness that can exacerbate TMJ symptoms.

Tips for Cyclist with TMJ Disorder

For those who suffer from TMJ but still love to ride, there are a few things they can do to make the activity more manageable. To start, consider adjusting the bike’s set-up to better accommodate neck and jaw muscles. The handlebars can be raised or shortened to decrease the strain placed on the neck and jaw. The seat can also be angled forward or in a more upward position to reduce activation of the jaw muscles.

Another option for those who suffer from TMJ is to invest in a better fitting helmet. A helmet that is too tight can cause unwarranted stress on the muscles in the head and neck. Try opting for a helmet with a rear dial adjustment system or a custom-fit system that allows for a more secure, yet comfortable fit.

When out on the trail, it’s important to take frequent breaks to loosen the muscles in the neck and jaw. Stop every few miles to complete stretches that move the jaw, like opening and closing the mouth or practicing gentle side-to-side head rotations. It’s also a good idea to avoid tight turns, jumps, or extreme up-hills as these movements can even make TMJ-related pain worse.

Alternative Therapies for Treating TMJ

For those who suffer from chronic TMJ, there are countless alternative therapies that can offer relief. Physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and massage are all great options for those looking to manage their TMJ-related pain. Many cyclists have also benefited from splint therapy, a method used to temporarily alter the bite to decrease strain on the jaw muscles.


Cycling is a great way to stay active and explore Bend’s stunning scenery, but for those who suffer from TMJ disorder, the activity can cause more pain than pleasure. However, with a few simple adjustments and alternative therapies, cyclists can decrease muscle strain and enjoy the ride more than ever before.