Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is pain located at the jaw joint or in muscles that move the jaw. Issues with the TMJ issues can contribute to headaches and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Pain in the jaw can become so uncomfortable that opening and closing the mouth can become intolerable. You might find yourself ‘eating’ your meals through a straw.
You might even experience a ‘click’ when you open and close the jaw. There is a soft cartilaginous disc that sits in the joint. When your jaw deviates or moves out of alignment the disc can be displaced causing the ‘click.’ This can be a painful and require treatment, but often there are no symptoms. ‘Clicking’ and ‘grating’ is common. Sometimes your jaw can become ‘locked’ which occurs when the disc that sits between the jaw and skull gets stuck.
While the joint itself is often an issue you may only have pain because of the muscles that surround the jaw. These are strong muscles along your jaw and on the side of your head that are often a culprit in head and face pain. You might find these muscles are tender to the touch and massaging them provides temporary relief.
Head, neck, and shoulder pain and stiffness are symptoms that may be due to issues with the TMJ. Migraine headaches. Pain in the eyes and ears. Tinnitus or ‘ringing in the ears.’ A painful tongue. These are all additional symptoms that might occur with TMJ syndrome.
But how does someone get jaw pain?
There are many reasons for dysfunction in the TMJ. Some of these reasons are obvious while others are subtle and often overlooked from even experienced practitioners.
Possible Reasons for TMJ Dysfunction:
2. Dental Procedures/Dental Work
A dental procedure can leave you in an uncomfortable position for extended periods of time. Dental procedures can change the alignment of your teeth and change the position of your jaw.
Clenching and grinding the teeth is common when under stress. This can be worse when you are sleeping and may require a night guard.
4. Poor Posture
Modern life has caused most of us to have a slouched posture with a forward head. A forward head changes the position of the jaw. Not only does the tracking of the jaw change, but often you will clench more throughout the day because a forward head posture causes the jaw to ‘hang open.’
5. Weak core muscles
Many of us use our jaw to compensate for a weak core. The brain has many strategies to help weak muscles and clenching your jaw is one of them. Have you ever seen a magazine of someone lifting heavy weights? Look at their face and you can almost guarantee they are clenching their jaw.
6. The Scalloped Tongue
A scalloped tongue is shaped by the teeth causing indentations on the tongue. A scalloped tongue is indicative of a swallowing issue which can lead to TMJ later in life. These swallowing issues are best to be treated early in life.
7. Rheumatoid Arthritis and connective tissue disorders
The nature of these diseases can result in a painful jaw.
An abscess in the oral cavity can cause pain in the jaw. If there is a fever it could be an infection causing the painful jaw.
There are many reasons and factors why you might experience jaw pain. The good news is that it can be treated. At Body Evolution Physical Therapy & Wellness we see people just like you who are experiencing TMJ. We know that there are many reasons that can cause pain in the jaw and we take the time to find out WHY you are having the pain. We then help to reduce the pain with hands-on techniques and teach you specific exercises you can do at home to make sure the discomfort decreases. We want you back to enjoying life whether it be eating a good meal or singing at the church services.
Give us a call if you are having jaw pain. We will answer any questions you have and will be ready to get you back to feeling your best when you come in for a visit.
I'm just a guy helping active adults and athletes frustrated by nagging aches and pains naturally return to a healthy lifestyle.