Many people experience jaw soreness and a persistent limitation in jaw movement at some point in their lives. If the pain does not subside on its own, it may develop into a long-lasting, chronic condition known as Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD).
This joint can become stressed and dysfunctional when you:
- Experience an injury to the teeth or jaw, or your bite is misaligned
- Grind your teeth
- Experience periods of stress or anxiety, increasing muscle tension and jaw clenching
- Have poor posture, especially through the neck and upper back
- Have low core strength, sometimes due to surgeries or secondary to scars
- Suffer from chronic pain elsewhere in the body
- Have arthritis or another inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders
- Chew gum excessively
There are three primary symptoms to watch out for when considering whether your jaw pain has evolved into TMJD:
- Are you feeling a dull, aching pain or tenderness in and around your jaw joint? Is it aggravated when chewing, clenching, or yawning?
- Do you notice having difficulty opening your mouth widely? Is it limiting your ability to eat or talk without feeling stiffness in the muscles around your jaw?
- Can you hear clicking or popping noises when you move your jaw?
In addition to these three primary symptoms, you may also notice dizziness or aches in the teeth, ears, neck, or head.
How Can you Treat TMJD?
Treatment options for TMJD are varied and may involve a combination of approaches. We’ve asked several healthcare providers how they would approach treatment for TMJD.
“Physical Therapy can help with TMJD in terms of addressing one’s general posture and alignment, which can affect the biomechanics and resting state of the jaw, as well as global muscle imbalances which can lead to the overuse of the jaw as a compensatory pattern.”
– Jen Morishima, Physical Therapist
“Botox relieves jaw tension by relaxing overactive jaw muscles so they are unable to engage in the powerful, often subconscious movement of the jaw that produces headaches and pain. A Botox treatment for TMJ disorders is quick, safe and effective. Most patients experience noticeable improvement within one or two weeks of their first treatment and the improvement lasts up to 6 months.”
“Massage of the face, neck and scalp can provide relief in people with TMJ dysfunction. A massage therapist with an Intraoral Endorsement can provide significant release of the masseter and pterygoids by massaging these important jaw muscles directly inside the mouth. People notice less tension in their jaw and face, beginning after the first appointment.”
– Cat Gale, Massage Therapist with Intraoral Endorsement
“Yoga helps develop body awareness, and allows you to notice tension and replace it with relaxation. In private yoga sessions, we can personalize a few simple yoga stretches for you to relieve pain and discomfort in the muscles of the neck, jaw and head associated with TMJ Disorder.”
– Raye Alidina, Yoga Instructor at PRO Club
“Counseling can help alleviate the physical symptoms (ie jaw clenching, teeth grinding) of anxiety and stress by working through the triggers associated with those feelings as well as learning new coping skills to deal with them.”
– Ali Sokolow, Counselor at PRO Medical
By: Michelle Jellinghaus, Massage Therapist for The Spa at PRO