Jaw Pain – TMJ

TMJQ. I find that my jaw is very stiff and I occasionally experience mild to moderate jaw pain which seems to occur in cycles. Are there any type of exercises or movements I can do to help relieve the pain?

 

The jaw joint is medically referred to as the Temporomadibular Joint or TMJ. We regularly hear clients complain about jaw pain (TMJ Disorder) but the good news is there are many simple things that you can do to alleviate the pain. To give you some background, the jaw joint acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull and that’s what allows your jaw to open and close. Think of the two joints in the jaw like a set of train tracks. The train (your jaw) needs to slide forwards and backwards equally on both sides.

We use our jaw every day to eat, talk, yawn and chew and, over time, it is exposed to many ‘stressors’ which can lead to a problem in the TMJ. Symptoms include pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement, stiffness, earaches, difficulty while chewing, headaches, jaw clicking and uneven biting. The pain can occur on one or both sides, depending on the cause and can be felt when you’re chewing or when you’re resting. Our clients generally complain of multiple symptoms, but it’s not unusual to just have one.

The exact cause of TMJ Disorders can often be caused by a combination of problems, such as poor muscle control around the jaw, stiffness in one or both of the sides of the jaw, too much mobility in the jaw or they could be an injury to one of the structures in the jaw. Some clients who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth, but many people naturally clench their teeth and never develop TMJ disorders. I feel one of the main contributors to this clenching is an inability to effectively control the muscles surrounding the jaw amongst others including stress and anxiety.

The two most common issues we see at JT Physiotherapy are when the jaw joint becomes too stiff or too mobile. When clients come to us with an overly mobile jaw, we train the muscles around the jaw to hold it in a better position and help prevent unwanted movement. In your case, where someone is complaining of a stiff jaw, we attempt to improve the range of movement to a functional level and allow the structures in the jaw to move through a full range.  This involves your Physio stretching and mobilising the jaw with special techniques.

In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders can be alleviated with simple changes and treatments. I would recommend going to your local GP or dentist if you have severe pain and they can provide you with some pain relief and onward referral for treatment if necessary. Simple things such as keeping extreme jaw movements (shouting, singing and chewing) to a minimum can help, as well as eating soft foods such as cooked vegetables, beans and grains. By practicing good posture you can reduce stress on the TMJ and I would recommend not resting your chin on your hand or holding the phone between your shoulder and ear. You can also apply a moist heat or cold pack to the side of your face for around 10 minutes a few times a day and then do a few simple jaw stretches approved by your GP, dentist or Charted Physiotherapist. Once you’re finished, you should apply a warm towel or face-cloth to the side of your face to help relieve the pain. Other simple things you can do include keeping your teeth slightly apart as often as you can, learning relaxation techniques to loosen your jaw, or wearing a plastic night guard while sleeping.

If you have ever suffered, or are currently suffering, from any type of jaw pain or clicking contact the clinic or Book an Appointment. We can talk to you about the many things you can do to alleviate jaw pain, as well as improving the quality of movement within the jaw joint by teaching the muscles around the jaw how they are supposed to function. 

Move better, feel better!

Johnny Loughrey MISCP

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