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Tips for Relieving Jaw Pain

Tips for Relieving Jaw Pain

by Owen Campbell, PT, DPT, OCSLeave a Comment

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain is common across all age groups and occupations. Whether you work at a computer, play contact sports, or are a world-renowned opera singer, the TMJ can be the source of much frustration. We use our jaw constantly throughout the day while talking, chewing, or trying to prop our head up on a Zoom call. Good jaw mechanics are essential.

15% of adults will experience TMJ dysfunction in their lifetimes1. Our family dentist may be the first to address this most of the time. We’ve all heard of mouthguards for bite alignment and tooth wear, but for those patients that do not have successful outcomes, there can be confusion on where to turn. Physical therapists are a provider of choice for patients with persistent jaw pain. Sometimes jaw pain can be part of a cluster of head and neck symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and neck pain. It’s estimated that jaw dysfunction is present in 40% of people with cervicogenic headaches.2 When this is the case, a directed treatment program for the neck and jaw can be helpful.

Neck movements to help relieve jaw pain:

Basic neck and shoulder blade movement corrections can significantly impact pain associated with the jaw.


The first exercise I have my neck and jaw patients perform is a chin tuck:

 

  • This exercise is best performed 5-10 times every 2-3 hours in your day, especially if you work at a desk.

Another great exercise is scapular retraction or the “no money” exercise.

 

  • This exercise can be performed more frequently throughout the workday to remind your shoulder to wrap behind your ribcage, instead of hanging forward.

Jaw movements to help relieve jaw pain:

Jaw movements are tricky and can aggravate pain if not done cautiously. The jaw moves in many planes, and protrusion and lateral deviation tend to be the most limited.


A protrusion is a nice way to stretch the jaw joint and can be done throughout the day:


The lateral deviation is a way to target that stretch to either side of the jaw:

 

  • A word of caution, most people are limited in the right OR left lateral deviation, so do the one that feels more like a stretch, not the painful one.

Physical Therapy for Jaw Pain

The head and neck are some of the more complicated areas of the body to treat, so the best option is to come in and see a physical therapist. The basic exercises above may help infrequent or minimally painful jaws, but consultation with a physical therapist is a quality use of your time if you have persistent pain. If you feel this is a treatment that may benefit you, contact Athletico and schedule a Free Assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. Gauer, R. and Semidey, M., 2022. Diagnosis and Treatment of Temporomandibular Disorders. [online] Aafp.org. Available at: <https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0315/p378.html> [Accessed 28 February 2022].
2. Von Piekartz, H. and Lüdtke, K., 2022. National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. [online] Nlm.nih.gov. Available at: <https://www.nlm.nih.gov/> [Accessed 28 February 2022].

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