Jaw pain is a very common problem that can lead to neck pain, toothache and headaches.
There are many causes for it, but fortunately also an effective self-treatment.
In todays post, I’ll show how my physical therapy treatment with 3 exercises looks like for fast jaw pain relief.
I’ll explain the causes for jaw pain and also why it can cause toothache and headaches. Then I’ll show you the exercises you can do yourself to relax your jaw muscles.
So let’s start right away.
The anatomy of the jaw
We call the jaw joint the temporomandibular joint. The joint forms by your jaw and your skull.
Joint capsule covers the joint. The capsule is filled with synovial fluid to reduce friction during movement of the joint.
Within the joint, there is a small meniscus, just like the one in your knee that improves the function of the temporomandibular joint.
We’ve identified 3 muscles that close the jaw:
- Temporal muscle
- External pterygoid muscle
We’ve also identified 4 muscles that open the jaw:
- Internal pterygoid muscle
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When you open your mouth, your jaw makes a small rotation towards the outer side and at the same time it slides back towards the inner side. The combination of movements prevents is from dislocating. The joint at the other side makes the opposite movement.
Due to the capsule and ligaments that connect to the jaw from your neck, the mobility of your neck is also important for proper jaw functioning.
There are 2 muscles that connect to this meniscus and forces it to slide back and forth within the joint. These muscles are called the lateral and medial pterygoid muscle.
The movements of the disc are essential for proper jaw function.
Too much tightness of the muscles can pull the disk out of the joint, causing a popping of clicking sound.
You can see how this works in this video.
Jaw pain symptoms
There are several symptoms that shows that you have jaw pain. The pain in your jaw is almost always caused by either your teeth or your muscles. Depending on the muscles that are affected, you will feel pain on different locations.
The masseter muscle causes radiating pain in your head as well as your temporal muscle. These muscles therefore cause headaches.
The pterygoid muscles causes pain in your jaw or your teeth. Also jaw tenderness through touch is a symptom for jaw pain.
Also, difficulty opening or closing your mouth is a sign of a jaw problem as well as a popping or clicking sound when opening your mouth.
Jaw pain causes
There are several habits that can cause jaw pain. They are often stress or lifestyle related. The most common jaw pain causes are:
- Chewing gum
- Eating hard to chew food
- Biting a pen
- Pressing your tongue against your teeth
- clenching your jaw
- To much caffeine
- Neck problems
All these actions causes to much tension in your jaw muscles. It affects the mobility of your jaw and causes pain.
Another possible jaw pain cause is osteoarthritis of the jaw, but this is a very uncommon condition. Only 10% of the jaw pain is caused by osteoarthritis.
Jaw pain relief | Physical therapy treatment with 4 exercises
To relief your jaw pain, you’ll first have to identify the cause for your jaw pain. If you don’t eliminate the cause of your jaw pain, there is no point in doing the recommended physical therapy exercises.
Often, people tend to clench their teeth when doing difficult activities in order to focus more. Also chewing gum is something that can easily be stopped.
You can also use a mouth guard against night time clenching. It will protect your teeth and relaxed your jaw muscles as well.
The most difficult problem to solve is often stress. Especially when sickness or a unhealthy marriage causes the stress, it’s often hard to solve. You have to take this into account when trying to relief your jaw pain.
You can use a supplement to reduce your stress but exercising are walking are also good ways to reduce stress.
Together with reducing stress, you’ll have to improve the function of your neck and reduce the tension in your jaw muscles.
I’ll show you 4 physical therapy exercises that will help you with this and relief your jaw pain.
Jaw pain relief exercise 1: Improving the mobility of your neck
The first exercise we’ll discuss focusses on improving the mobility of your neck. Especially the upper part of your neck effects the mobility of your jaw.
Perform the exercise like this:
Wrap a towel around your neck
- Take with your left hand the right side of the towel and with your right hand the left side
- Now lift the hand that is in front up until the towel is at the same height as your cheek
- Now pull with your arm and the towel your head in the full rotation to the side
- Repeat this ten times and then change to the opposite side by changing your hands
- Finally, grasp the towel normal and lift your arms and look up at the same time
You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.
Perform this exercise twice a day. Rotate your neck as far as you can. It might hurt at first, but that’s no problem. You will feel it improve within days.
Jaw pain relief exercise 2: Stretch your jaw muscles
The second exercise focusses on stretching the muscles in your jaw. As I mentioned before, tightness of your jaw muscles is the main cause for jaw pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
By stretching the muscles, you’ll improve the function of your jaw joint. It also reduces the popping or clicking sound of your jaw when opening it.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Place the index finger of one hand on the teeth at your lower jaw
- Place the thumb of your other hand on the teeth at your upper jaw
- Now use your fingers to open up your mouth further
- Hold this for 20 seconds
- Repeat it 3 times
You can see how to perform the exercise in the picture.
When doing the exercise, you should feel the stretch in your jaw muscles at both sides of your face.
Jaw pain relief exercise 3: Relax your jaw muscles
The purpose of the third physical therapy exercise is to reduce the tension in your jaw muscles. The results is the same as in the previous exercise, but the execution is different.
You can relax your jaw muscles in 2 ways:
The first way is by massaging your jaw muscles at your face with this massage oil . Find the most painful spot on your jaw and massage it gently for about 20 minutes. You’ll feel the pain disappear slowly.
The second way is by squeezing your jaw muscle between your thumb and your index finger.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Place your thumb in your mouth and find the muscle all the way in the back of your mouth
- You’re looking for the most tense and painful spot
- Place your index finger on the same muscle, but at the your face
- Squeeze the muscle between the 2 fingers
- Hold it until the pain disappears completely
- Repeat this 3 times
You can see how to perform the exercise in the picture below.
Perform this exercise as often as possible for optimal result.
Jaw pain relief exercise 4: Massage your jaw muscles
The fourth exercise is massaging your jaw muscles. When you massage your jaw muscles, the tension in these muscle will disappear.
Muscle tension is the main cause for jaw pain. Therefore, massaging your jaw muscles will relief your jaw pain instantly.
In the picture below, you can see which area you have to massage to relieve your pain.
The massage can be painful at first you you’ll feel instant relieve.
Repeat this exercise several times a day.
Relaxing your jaw muscles combined with reducing stress is the best way to relief jaw pain.
If you have any questions left after reading this article, feel free to ask them by sending me an e-mail.
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