Does eating, speaking, or yawning cause you pain? Does your jaw click, clunk, or get locked in position?
You’re not alone – an estimated 5-10% of people experience pain caused by jaw dysfunction!
What is jaw dysfunction?
The jaw, or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located just in front of the ear, and connects the skull (at the temporal bone) to the lower jaw bone (mandible).
Between these two surfaces sits an articular disc; a fibrocartilage tissue that has an important role in absorbing and distributing mechanical stress in the jaw.
The TMJ is also surrounded by many muscles and ligaments; when these are relaxed and balanced, both of the jaw joints open, close, and move side to side comfortably and smoothly, allowing us to talk, yawn, and chew without pain or difficulty.
Essentially, any problem that prevents this complex system of joints, muscles, and connective tissues from working together in unison may result in temporomandibular disorder (TMD) aka jaw dysfunction.
What are the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction?
TMD may present with pain around the jaw joint itself, or it may cause pain in other regions such as in the ear, the face, or the head and neck. A person with TMD might also experience:
- Clicking or clunking of the jaw when speaking, yawning, or eating
- The jaw becoming locked in a closed or open position
- Headaches (especially around the temple or jaw regions, but not always!)
- Restricted mouth opening
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- An uneven bite or a misaligned jaw
- Earaches or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
What causes TMJ dysfunction?
Common musculoskeletal causes of jaw pain can include:
- Weakness of the muscles that control jaw movement
- Tightness of the jaw muscles due to clenching or grinding the teeth
- Restricted mobility of the jaw joints and/or the vertebrae in the upper neck
- Incorrect position or dysfunctional movement of the articular disc of the jaw
- Trauma to the head, neck, or jaw
- Side effects from dental and orthodontic work
How can osteopathy help?
Our osteopaths will ask you a series of questions to help get to the root cause of your symptoms, including information about your general health and lifestyle, stress levels, dental history, past injuries, and more.
We will perform an examination of the movement patterns of your jaw, head, neck, and upper back as well as assessing the muscles of your jaw for weakness or tightness.
Based on these assessment findings, our osteopaths will perform manual therapy techniques that target the dysfunctional regions with the goals of relieving tension, improving alignment, and restoring functional movement to the jaw and the surrounding regions.
This might include techniques such as massage, stretching, joint articulation, joint mobilisation, muscle resistance exercises, and craniosacral therapy techniques.
Our osteopaths will also provide tailored advice on self-management strategies for you to continue at home. This may include stretching and strengthening exercises, advice on work or home ergonomics, and stress-management techniques.
It’s important to remember that jaw pain could have an underlying cause or maintaining factors, so we may also recommend further investigations with your GP, referral to a dentist or orthodontist, or further support for stress management.
Are you ready to get your jaw pain looked at?
You can book an appointment with one of our osteopaths here: https://www.bodywellhealthcare.com.au/book-online/