Is jaw pain making you snappy?

Although there may be times you wish someone would stop talking, its no laughing matter when you have difficulty opening and closing your mouth! We need to be able to move our jaws comfortably in order to talk and eat. When you experience joint pain, there may be clicking or grating sensations, tenderness or swelling which could limit the range of motion of your jaw.

So let’s sink our teeth into some information!

Our lower jaw (mandible) is connected to our skull by a sliding hinge joint at either side, level with the ears. This is called the temporomandibular joint. You have probably heard of TMJ pain as it can affect up to 25% of the population. Ligaments and muscles enable the lower jaw to act in opposition to the fixed upper jaw (maxilla). This allows us to talk, bite and chew. 

The function and motion of the jaw is closely linked to the movement of the upper neck. Studies have found that around 88% of patients with TMJ pain also had neck pain, and saw an improvement in neck pain following treatment of the TMJ. (See here)

This is one of the main reasons why people with TMJ pain may present to chiropractors.

What causes jaw pain?

Jaw pain may develop from chronic grinding of the teeth (known as bruxism). Often as a result of stress or anxiety, the increased tension in the surrounding muscles causes discomfort. Many things could cause you to grit your teeth but when this leads to chronic pain, what can be done to help?

Poor posture, especially if it is related to the head and neck, can cause the jaw to become misaligned. In some cases this could be linked to experiencing headaches and dizziness as well. When you visit your chiropractor, they may perform adjustments elsewhere to help restore normal function of the jaw.

Other conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia or dental problems (e.g tooth misalignment or infection) can cause pain in the jaw. It is therefore important to evaluate where your jaw pain originates from in order to diagnose and treat it effectively.

As primary healthcare professionals, chiropractors are trained to diagnose problems relating to the jaw. Studies have shown that care may help provide relief from symptoms (See here). When presenting to us with jaw pain, your chiropractor will also assess the movement and function of your upper neck and surrounding joints and muscles. With gentle, hands-on care to relieve muscle tension and improve joint motion, chiropractors may help relieve pain and discomfort. If an onward referral is requested, this will be discussed with you and arranged as part of your care.

Exercises to help restore normal movement to the jaw are also vital in preventing future problems. These are given as standard in our treatment plans.

What can I do to manage jaw pain at home?

You could try preventative measures such as avoiding hard foods or items such as chewing gum. You might benefit from relaxation techniques too, like setting aside time during the day to practise meditation, massaging the area, having a soothing cup of chamomile tea before bed or a warm bath or shower. Night-time bite guards may also be helpful for those who grind their teeth at night.

If you find jaw pain is making you snappy, consider chiropractic treatment alongside simple lifestyle changes to see a jaw-dropping effect!

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