Barefoot Physiotherapy Brisbane, example oA Physio treats jaw pain with a jaw release.

How to release Jaw Tension

How to release Jaw Tension is a common question we are asked by clients at Barefoot Physiotherapy. Jaw tension and pain can be a debilitating condition that affects your neck movement, ability to eat and ability to speak. The jaw muscles are utilised every time you eat, talk and smile, and like any muscle if overworked they can become tight causing you pain and discomfort. In some cases, this can result in a locked jaw.

The intensity of your jaw pain can vary and can often be described as throbbing, tender or achy. These feelings may be exasperated by smiling, talking, chewing or yawning. In addition, the location of your jaw pain can vary from both sides of your jaw, to just under your ear, closer to your chin, your neck or nose. Therefore, you may be wondering how to release jaw tension to help prevent pain and incorrect function. In this article we’re going to provide you 4 expert tips on releasing jaw tension backed by qualified and experienced physiotherapists here at Barefoot Physiotherapy.

What Causes Jaw Tension?

Releasing jaw tension is important for your overall jaw control, neck movement and in some cases headache management. Jaw tension can develop due to multiple reasons common ones include; TMJ disorder, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, poor neck positioning, stress and excessive chewing. If one of the above reasons isn’t causing your jaw pain your Physiotherapists will recommend consulting your GP to ensure there are no systematic issues that are the cause i.e. Rheumatoid arthritis. Your Physiotherapist might also recommend you consult your dental practitioner if your tension is developing due to night time teeth grinding or jaw clenching, as they can assist with developing a mouth guard for you.

How Can You Release Jaw Tension?

In your assessment, your Barefoot physiotherapist will explain and demonstrate how to relieve jaw tension and pain. Your physiotherapist can provide hands on relief to the jaw by targeting the muscles which make up the TMJ including; the masseter and temporomandibular.

If needed, your physiotherapist may also release through your upper cervical muscles to help relieve pressure around the joint and base of the skull. Once your physiotherapist determines the best way to release your individual pain, they will teach you how to manage your symptoms and relax the jaw in the comfort of your home, at work or with activities that tend to tighten your jaw.

Tips for Releasing Jaw Tension & Pain

  1. Jaw Relaxation position

The jaw relaxation position is an excellent way to help combat and prevent jaw tightness. It allows your jaw to maintain a relaxed position in activities throughout the day and can also help reduce the build-up of jaw/ neck tightness which leads to headaches. The jaw relaxation position; is to lightly place your tongue behind the top of your teeth and let your jaw sit in its natural position. You should feel a sense of lightness in your jaw and it should feel longer. You can practice this position whilst driving, working at a computer or watching TV.

  • Internal Jaw release

You may be wondering how to release jaw tension with your own release. There are 2 major muscle groups in the jaw that you can self-release, and your physiotherapist will show you how to release. For a more specific release, you can place your thumb on the inside of your mouth and the fingers on the outside. Your thumb is on the outside of your teeth (but inside your mouth) and your mouth is relaxed and closed. Squeeze the jaw muscles in between your thumb & fingers. Aim to find a spot in the muscle where your fingers feel like they are pushing against resistance (something firm like a “knot” or “band” in the muscle). Hold each spot for 30 seconds. Aim to find 2-3 spots per muscle group (minimum 1-2 mins per muscle total)

  • External Jaw release

You can also release the 2 major muscle groups in you jaw externally with a self-release. Your Physiotherapist will show you how to do this; Using your finger/s, move around the jaw muscles near where the jaw opens in front of the ear. Aim to find a spot in the muscle where your fingers feel like they are pushing against resistance (something firm like a “knot” or “band” in the muscle). Hold each spot for 30 seconds. Aim to find 2-3 spots per muscle group (minimum 1-2 mins per muscle total)

  • Hot/ cold compress

To help relieve aches and pain associated with TMJ disorder or jaw tightness, your physiotherapist will show you how to utilise a hold or cold compress. Using a heat pack will can reduce the muscle spasm around the jaw helping to relax the pull on the joint. In addition, a cold compress can help numb the area to calm any inflammation at the joint and relieve pain. When utilising a heat pack or a warm cloth, don’t apply heat warmer than bath water and only utilise 3-4 time a day for a duration of it 15 minutes at a time. If you are using a cold pack, make sure it is wrapped in a thin towel and only applied 3- or 4-times a day for 15 minutes at a time.  

How To Relax Jaw Tension Throughout the Day

If you are experiencing discomfort in your jaw, you can utilise the tips above to help relieve your jaw tension and pain. When determining how to relieve jaw tension and pain, it is best to first consult your physiotherapist so they can make sure you spend time on the exercises that are best for your individual condition. As described, everyone’s cause of jaw pain can be different and knowing how your pain and tightness is building up is essential to targeting the root cause of your symptoms. However, whilst waiting to consult your physiotherapist starting with some gentle releases and jaw relax position can help ease your symptoms.

How Can I Prevent Jaw Tension?

If you are reading this blog and aren’t experiencing any current jaw pain or discomfort but want to know how to prevent tension, follow these simple tips:

  • Awareness of your jaw position (set reminders to relax your jaw, sticky notes on your computer screen or email reminders are good).
  • Try not to excessively chew (i.e gum).
  • Utilise meditation to help mitigate stress and if you feel your jaw start to click or become tight act quickly and book in to see a physiotherapist.

Release Jaw Tension with Physiotherapy

At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we utilise our Barefoot treatment plan when assessing all new clients this includes when focusing on how to release jaw tension. Our plan includes testing for any nerve irritation, movement reduction, muscle tightness and joint stiffness. Our physiotherapist will also tailor the session to your concern by assessing your jaw range, local muscle tightness throughout the jaw, neck and upper back. If the cause of your jaw pain is due to a local issue at the TMJ joint, your Physiotherapist will discuss with you the best course of treatment to resolve your symptoms. 

Book in with Barefoot for TMJ Treatment Today

Therefore, we hope you now have a better understanding of how jaw muscles become tight and how to release jaw tension. If you or anyone you know is experiencing jaw pain, discomfort or locking please do not hesitate to contact us at Barefoot Physiotherapy. We can help determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue and then work with you to plan your best course of treatment. Book in with us today by calling us on 1300 842 850 or using the book online link on our website home page.

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