416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 8pm

416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-8pm

My Jaw Hurts! Can Osteopathy Help?

Published by Better Health Osteopathy on 27 January 2023, Jaw Pain

Many people think Osteopaths only treat backs! Sometimes, patients don’t mention some of their aches and pains because they believe Osteopaths don’t treat that area. Jaw pain (commonly referred to as TMJ pain) is one such example.

The TMJ joint has an incredibly complex relationship with numerous other parts of your body, and the joints themselves are incredibly complex in both their structure and the way they function. The amazing thing is not that they occasionally cause people pain but that, in general, we make them work incredibly hard and don’t even think about them because they normally work so efficiently!

Anatomy of The Jaw


What Is TMJ?

TMJ is an acronym referring to the temporomandibular joint. There are two temporomandibular joints in the body, one on each side of the face near the ears. These temporomandibular joints are what connect your lower jawbone to the base of your skull and assist with moving the jaw when chewing, talking, swallowing and for forming facial expressions.

TMJ disorders (sometimes referred to as TMD) are conditions affecting the jaw joints and their surrounding muscles and ligaments. These conditions may result in mild or severe pain and discomfort, tenderness at the joint, localised facial pain and/or difficulty moving the joint.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

The muscles you use in your jaw are the strongest and most sensitive in the whole body, they work hard at their job to keep your jaw moving. However, sometimes for various reasons, things can cease to function in the way that they should, which puts undue pressure on all of the surrounding tissues and muscles, causing pain and inflammation. TMJ disorders can be caused by a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Injuries sustained to the jaw joints or surrounding tissues
  • Repeated grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Jaw dislocation (between the ball and socket joint)
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Head or neck trauma or injuries
  • An uneven bite (Malocclusion)
  • General wear and tear
  • Poor posture
  • Holding your jaw open for long periods of time during dental treatment

Signs And Symptoms Of Jaw Dysfunction

Jaw pain is relatively common and can be highly debilitating. TMJ disorder symptoms can affect one or both sides of the face, they can come and go or last for years, and jaw pain can affect people of all ages, children, teenagers, and the elderly. Some of the most common symptoms experienced are:

  • Tenderness and pain in the jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Restricted movement when opening or closing the mouth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Joint noise; cracking, clicking or popping when opening the mouth and during eating
  • Swelling on the side of your face
  • Headaches
  • Pain around or behind the eyes
  • Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite
  • Neck or shoulder pain

TMJ And Ear Pain

Pain in the ears is often overlooked and presumed to be from other causes, such as allergies or infection, rather than jaw dysfunction, which is why it’s important to note the connection.

Because the TMJ joints connect your neck and jaw very near the ear, muscle tension and inflammation from your jaw can interfere with the proper functioning of the ear. This leads to ear pain and inflammation around the ear canal and can also present as tinnitus or a ringing sound in the ear.

Ear pain associated with TMJ disorders is often a sharp, stabbing sensation and can sometimes feel like the ears are a bit clogged up. If you regularly experience ear pain, stuffiness or ringing in the ears, it’s best to rule out TMJ disorders.

Can Osteopathy Help With Jaw Pain?

While not all jaw pain can be relieved by osteopathic treatment alone, it is certainly worth discussing your jaw pain with your Osteopath. They can help to reduce the symptoms and work towards correcting any existing musculoskeletal issues with a focus on pain relief, rehabilitation and restoration of normal function.

After carrying out a full assessment of your jaw, neck and spine to determine the underlying cause of your pain, your Osteopath will put together a tailored and comprehensive treatment plan to address the issue. Treatment plans centre around the principles of Osteopathic treatment using highly skilled techniques to ease your jaw pain and restore the proper range of movement in the jaw. While also focusing on more long-term rehabilitation techniques to improve mobility and strength in your jaw and other areas if needed.

3 TMJ Relaxation Exercises

In some cases breathing and relaxation exercises to relax the jaw may be helpful to patients, particularly those going through stressful life events. The following two breathing exercises can help relax the muscles around the jaw.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise One

  • Sit in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a deep breath and puff up your cheeks, then blow out the air with an audible sigh.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise Two

  • Focus your attention on your jaw and its movement.
  • Clench your jaw tightly, feeling the tension in the surrounding muscles.
  • Hold for five seconds, then relax for fifteen seconds and allow the tension to disappear.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise Three

  • Rest your tongue gently on the top of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth.
  • Allow your teeth to come apart while relaxing your jaw muscles.

If you are struggling with jaw pain – Our Osteopaths are here to help please do not hesitate to contact the team at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Better Health Osteopathy

Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible. Lorraine is also a clinic tutor on the Osteopathic Course in Ara and relishes the opportunity to teach the next generation of osteopaths.