If you’re looking for ways to relieve jaw pain, this post is for you. One of the most common reasons for jaw pain is because of injury or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is the hinge joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. There are hinges on both sides of your face, located just in front of your ear. Your TMJ allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side. Its function is necessary for everyday living: talking, eating, laughing and yawning, for example.
The TMJ is the most frequently used joint in the body, and so it’s prone to fatigue or injury or strain. This can lead to chronic pain and discomfort. Such scenarios are referred to as TMD, wherein the “D” stands for disorder.
What is TMD?
An exact cause for TMD is difficult to determine. Certain factors do influence TMD including genetics, arthritis, jaw injury or strain to head and neck muscles, and in some cases, habitual teeth grinding. Changes to jaw shape can also lead to TMD, including after braces and clenching due to stress.
Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include:
- Pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Locking of the joint (limited ability to open jaw)
- Excessive teeth grinding
- Popping or clicking of the jaw
TMD can also lead to consistent headaches, stiff upper neck muscles and pain in or around your ears. The pain associated with TMD can be extremely uncomfortable. The good news? Discomfort is temporary. There are effective ways to relieve jaw pain, including physiotherapy treatment.
How VanCity Physio Can Help Relieve Jaw Pain
At VanCity Physio, we successfully treat TMD with intramuscular stimulation and manual therapy. There are also some ways to relieve jaw pain from home.
Intramuscular stimulation (IMS)
IMS is a scientifically proven method that stimulates muscle relaxation and healing. Similar to traditional acupuncture, we insert thin needles into the affected muscle (on the outside of the jaw). The needles stimulate the muscles so that they maximally contract, followed by complete muscle relaxation. Think of it like a “reset” button for your muscles—you’ll notice an almost immediate reduction in pain. Moreover, the needles draw blood towards the nerves which accelerates healing.
Don’t worry—the needles themselves do not hurt. Many people do not even feel them! You may experience minor discomfort from the muscle contraction and a bit of soreness for a couple hours after treatment. We’ve seen the amazing difference it makes for our clients’ pain, and the science backs it up.
In addition to IMS, we also relieve jaw pain from TMD through manual therapy. This includes soft tissue massage of the muscles surrounding the TMJ. We may recommend jaw movement exercises as well as exercises for posture correction. Relaxation training is also essential to relieve jaw pain, because psychosocial stressors can cause muscles to tense up and create discomfort.
At-home pain relief
There are some techniques you can do at home to relieve jaw pain. Ice and heat treatment with a warm compress for 15 minutes can improve muscle function and reduce pain. Avoid crunchy foods that force your jaw to overwork to avoid excessive chewing, including gum. Take smaller bites to avoid overstretching the joint. Caffeine can make muscles tense, so try sticking to softer foods. How you sleep can also influence jaw and neck pain—ideally, try to avoid sleeping on your stomach. Finally, as a temporary relief for acute pain, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve jaw pain.