The causes of Jaw Pain and how to treat them

We all know how debilitating jaw pain can get, at its worst preventing you from eating and even talking. Most of us assume that it is likely to be a problem that can be solved with a trip to the dentist. This is a natural first assumption and usually a good one, although it is important to try and differentiate jaw pain from tooth or mouth pain. Jaw pain can originate from underlying issues with your ears and sinuses, directly from your teeth and jaw, and also from simple things such as your posture and body tension.

What is jaw pain?

Jaw pain is predominately caused by tight or overactive muscles that connect your jaw to the skull, the same as any other muscle in your body. While these muscles are quite a lot smaller than say, your hamstring, their role and function is undoubtedly even more important. The most common cause of jaw pain is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD for short), which itself can be caused by a variety of things including[1]:

  • Displaced disc in the region of your jaw
  • Teeth grinding while asleep
  • Involuntary clenching of the jaw due to anxiety and stress
  • Arthritis of the disc cushioning the jaw
  • An impact to the jaw joint

Some other common causes of general jaw pain include:

  • Sinus issues
  • Poor posture
  • Dental abscesses
  • Cluster headaches
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

You don’t often hear about people going to a physio with a sore jaw, however it’s a lot more common than you might think! In order to make sure we’re treating you the right way, physio’s will make sure to test jaw, neck, torso and shoulder movements and range, along with checking specific muscles in your jaw and upper neck. Certain sleeping positions and poor posture can also have an impact on tension in the jaw.

How to fix jaw pain

There are multiple techniques than can be used to assist in relieving the jaw, with specific pressure on the masseter, lateral pterygoid and medial pterygoid muscles able to provide relief. While these techniques are relatively simple and can be done by yourself at home, it is recommended that you first consult your physiotherapist to learn the correct methods.

Bringing attention to the tension that is stored in your jaw is an important step in helping relieve jaw pain. It’s not until we stop and actually think about it that we realise how tense we are in our jaw and mouth, so much so that I can almost guarantee that as you’re reading this your teeth are clenched and your tongue is pressed firmly to the roof of your mouth. Now this is something everyone does subconsciously and is completely natural, however whenever you remember, unclenching your teeth and relaxing your tongue will to reduce tension and pain in your jaw.

While jaw pain can really impact the living of your day to day life, especially with the busy lifestyle in Sydney’s lower north shore, the good news is your local fixiotherapist is here to help. Give us a call to find out how we can help cure that sore jaw once and for all!

[1] Mayo Clinic. (n.d.) TMJ Disorders. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/symptoms-causes/syc-20350941

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