Many people think Osteopaths only treat backs! We find that sometimes patients don’t mention some of their aches and pains, because they think we don’t treat that area. Jaw pain (commonly referred to as TMJ pain) is one such example.
Jaw pain can be extremely debilitating and is relatively common. While not all jaw pain can be relieved by osteopathic treatment, it is certainly worth discussing your jaw pain with your osteopath.
I know we shouldn’t have favourites, but the TMJ is one of my FAVOURITE joints in the whole body. 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
Amazing Facts About Your Jaw
The muscles you use to chew food are the strongest in the whole body, and yet so sensitive they can respond to the sensation of the tiniest grain of sand in your food and instantly release your jaw, preventing potential damage to your teeth. Your jaw muscles are some of the hardest working muscles in your entire body…every time you chew or talk you are working them hard!
Symptoms of Jaw Dysfunction
Tenderness and pain in the jaw
Limited mouth opening
Pain on eating
Joint noise – cracking, clicking or popping – upon opening and during eating
Trauma- whiplash injuries or a direct blow to the jaw can cause injury.
Poor posture and biomechanical strain – can also affect the jaw joint. For example, dysfunction in your neck, shoulder or upper back can affect the mechanics of the jaw.
Malocclusion – a problem in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together in biting or chewing.
Dental Work – holding your jaw open for long periods of time during treatment – your jaw isn’t generally used to staying open for long periods of time and this can cause muscle strain.
Bruxism – grinding your teeth is a common contributor to jaw pain. Some sources estimate between 10 and 30% of the population grind their teeth at night!
Emotional Stress – this can have a serious impact on jaw tension and pain levels. Jaw pain is something we see in lots of patients going through some emotionally trying times in their lives.
Arthritis – can also affect the jaw joint.
Can Osteopathy Help With Jaw Pain?
Your Osteopath can help reduce the symptoms of jaw pain. A full assessment of your jaw neck and spine will be undertaken to ascertain the underlying cause of your pain. We will then compile a comprehensive treatment plan, tailored specifically to each patient.
Treatment plans centre around osteopathic treatment using highly skilled techniques to ease your jaw pain and restore the proper range of movement in the jaw.
We also focus on more long-term rehabilitation techniques to improve mobility and strength in your jaw and other areas if needed.
Jaw pain can also cause headaches, and these will be treated if required. Breathing exercises may also be prescribed to patients going through stressful events.
It’s also important to remember that jaw pain can affect people of all ages, children, teenagers, the elderly.
When we treat patients with jaw pain, our main aim is to return patients back to health as quickly as possible!
Some Exercises You Can Start With
The following 2 exercises can help relax the muscles around the jaw.
TMJ Relaxation Exercise 1
Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor.
Take a deep breath in, puff up your cheeks and blow out the air with an audible sigh.
TMJ Relaxation Exercise 2
Focus your attention on your jaw.
Clench your jaw tightly, feeling the tension in the surrounding muscles.
Hold for five seconds…then relax for 15 seconds and allow the tension to disappear.
If you are struggling with Jaw Pain– Our Osteopaths are here to help you!
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.