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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

Jaw pain? It's not all in your head

Movement Monday returns this week and we’re talking the Jaw and three little letters, the TMJ. You use the TMJ thousands of times a day with every bite you take to every word you speak and if you’ve ever had any issues with jaw pain, you know just how challenging it can be to deal with pain in this joint. Usually, this joint is dealt with by your dentist, usually with custom made bite guards and soft foods. But, in most cases that I’ve seen, these approaches are usually expensive(bite guards can run you hundreds of dollars out of pocket), passive(meaning that you are out of commission for months), and in most of the cases that I’ve seen, it did not take care of the root cause of their TMJ pain. So, as with many joints, pain and limitation in the joint can usually be traced back to issues above and below the joint.

So, the TMJ is usually at the mercy of the neck. Neck position and specifically certain postures can place extra stress on this joint. That’s why my TMJ exam not only focuses on how your jaw is working but how your neck contributes to the problem. Does your neck look like a teenager on their phone? Then, very likely, the muscles that come off your neck and connect to the jaw are constantly pulling on the jaw and as a result, pulling on the muscles that close your jaw(found on the sides of your head around your temples). This can cause those muscles to go into spasm which then pulls on the TMJ and causes irritation. This irritation causes a vicious cycle of pain, spasm, posture changes which then increases the pain, spasm, posture changes which then result in you not being able to open your mouth or even getting clicking and locking in the joint.

So, where does Physical Therapy come into the treatment of the TMJ. First, we’re going to do a thorough check of all the things that can contribute to your jaw pain, from a gentle hands on check of both the joint and the muscles(gentle massage to where you hurt) to an exam of your neck and finding the right exercises that can begin to reduce your jaw pain. Then we use gentle hands on techniques to improve the mobility of your jaw joint and restore pain free chewing and talking all the while giving you the tools to treat yourself when not in the clinic to keep the healing going strong.

If you’re dealing with jaw pain, start with these two gentle treatments to start kicking off the healing. These will start the healing but will only get you part of the way there and if you don’t take care of the causes of your jaw pain, it is very likely to come back.

Temple massage: Find where this muscle is by gently clenching your jaw. Then, gently press in a circular pattern around the muscle noting where the sensitive areas are. Focus on those sensitive areas. These muscles are best treated b not pressing too hard(meaning you can press harder later, but start easy).

Masseter massage: Place your index and middle finger on your cheek just below your back molar. Again, gently clench your jaw and follow along that muscle and find those tender spots. Again with your index and middle finger, gently pressing in a circular motion all along those spots.

Note the change in your jaw pain and motion. If you notice even a little improvement, you are starting on the right path to treat your jaw.

Have questions? Click on the call now to schedule a telephone consult or request free total body diagnostic test above to get your personal questions answered.

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