Did you know Jaw pain can be treated.
It can be common for clients to come to Barefoot Physiotherapy and end up getting an internal jaw release from one of the physios. Having a jaw release can sometimes come as a bit of a shock to people. This is because even though most people mention tension being held in the jaw, jaw pain, clenching or grinding, it isn’t usually directly addressed.
What is Jaw pain?
The small muscles in the jaw, mainly the masseter, buccinator and the pterygoids (silent ‘p’), can become overactive, tight and unhappy just like any other muscle.
Why we get Jaw pain.
There can be multiple reasons as to why you may have jaw pain or tightness. All jaw pain does not necessarily have to be what is termed ‘TMJ dysfunction’. TMJ is known as the Temporomandibular Joint – meaning the jaw joint. This is more an umbrella term, rather than giving us a reason for the pain, so we are still left asking ‘why’.
- Teeth grinding and clenching is an obvious one because of the physical squeezing of the muscles.
- Dental work like braces or getting teeth pulled.
- This is a factor that contributes over time and can slowly build up without us noticing.
- The resting position and posture of our jaw can cause tightness over time.
- Posture of our skull on our neck, commonly referred to as forward head posture, causes our neck muscles to bring our jaw down, which in turn causes our jaw muscles to keep our mouths closed.
- Headaches, or neck pain, associated with upper neck joint stiffness can contribute to jaw symptoms.
- Tension and stress can be held in the jaw and it can become a difficult thing for your brain to understand when you want the jaw to ‘relax’
How we treat Jaw Pain.
When addressing jaw pain, we have a look at your jaw movements, neck movements, possibly trunk and shoulder ranges as well as checking neural irritation tests for neck and arms. Assessment and treatment of upper neck joints, and jaw muscles to improve nerve irritation and movements. We will discuss stress management, sleep positions, and other contributing factors (think brain overload).
Here are some key points that are important and things you can start working on now:
- Awareness: Can you bring attention to the tension held in the jaw and actively tell yourself to reduce it? If not, don’t worry, those messages from brain to muscle can take time to develop
- Jaw release: Either internally, with thumb and index finger pads to squeeze the tight spot, or externally. Being gentle with yourself and not overdoing, as these muscles are smaller and can be sensitive. Hold 30s-60s, 2-3x, can be done throughout the day, a link to help: Inside Jaw Release
- Sleep position: You want your neck and jaw muscles to be relaxed while you are trying to rest! It is best to try and set up where upper traps, neck and jaw are supported and squishy: set up your sleep position
- Head posture: This will differ for everyone and be dependent on your neural irritation, as sometimes position changes are aggravating for upper neck nerve irritation
You can call Barefoot Physiotherapy to learn more and discuss the factors that might be contributing to your jaw pain!