TMJ Jaw Pain can be caused by a trauma, dislocation of the jaw joint, dislocation of the cushioning disc in the joint or a chronic muscle tension in the vicinity. It is a disorder in the jaw joint, called the Temporomandibular Joint.
Frequently individuals experiencing
excessive popping and clicking in their jaw, will get pain from time to
time as well. That was how mine behaved, then became worse in my teens
with braces. When the pressure from the surrounding muscles and/or the
dislocation becomes so serious that it impedes the movement of the jaw
or pressure on nerves, it can become a chronic pain issue. This entire
network of pressure, tension and pain can be exacerbated by clenching or
grinding at night, along with the other reasons the TMJ jaw pain is
In our clinic, we work with alleviating this jaw pain primarily through muscle work, and assisting our client in finding postural patterns and other habits that are making the tension patterns worse. Our therapists are trained in identifying and working with the muscles that are related to TMJ pain, including the muscles located inside the mouth. The many muscles which attach to the jaw can be softened through massage, hydrotherapy and stretching.
So many different joint pain patterns in our bodies could be
alleviated or resolved, if we could open up stuck muscle patterns. We've
had clients come in with years of pain in their joints that
spontaneously resolved, when we focused on opening up a restricted
muscle or connective tissue pattern. This has included TMJ jaw pain,
knee pain, neck pain, hand pain...all of these have a remarkable amount
of muscles crossing over the joint, so that when the joint(s) become too
compressed by the pressure, there is less room for the joint to
The top suggestions we give our clients for TMJ jaw pain is to be sure that they are not sleeping in positions that compromise your jaw. This may be bad news for some folks, but the only way to truly have your jaw neutral is to sleep on your back, with a neck roll, or rolled towel. No big, puffy pillows, if you want to alleviate headaches or neck and jaw tension. This is very important!
Excessively chewy foods are something to avoid in general. My personal issues with TMJ jaw pain are under control, but sometimes I'll sleep poorly, clench my jaw for a couple of weeks and let the tension in my neck and jaw get too tight, and sure enough, I'll have TMJ pain. One sure-fire way to exacerbate or flare my TMJ pain is to chew gum for a couple of days, or eat things like Power Bars (I haven't had one of those in a couple of years, since I was training for a race and needed smooshable race food) or bagels.
Remember that the tension in a muscle
structure is cumulative. If you do one or two of these things every once
in a while, you will probably be able to manage your TMJ issue...but do
several of them at one shot, and you may be looking at an all out
flare, when you can't close your mouth for a day or two. I'm speaking
from experience. During a really stressful time, I would wake up
clenching and one day I couldn't completely close my jaw for an entire
day. Obviously I jacked up the structure within the joint from creating a
super-tight fortress of overused muscles around it. Massage, heat on
the muscles and ice on the joint itself allowed me to be able to eat the
next day, but I now know that it's possible to 'throw out' your jaw
from too much stress and tension! Good thing to know.
If you want for your partner, friend or caregiver to help you out by learning some massage techniques for the head, neck or jaw, we have a Couples Massage video available for instant download that has some easy techniques to help to alleviate tension in those areas.
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