Two Bears Physiotherapy & Health Services

Two Bears Physiotherapy & Health Services

Quality, Professional Care


A Pain in the Jaw

Posted on 21 June, 2016 at 23:50

Problems with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), the jaw, are very common and are estimated to affect 33% of the population at some point within their lifetime. Unsurprisingly, the TMJs are the most used joints in the body as they are involved with breathing, eating and talking.

There are a wide range of symptoms with TMD (temporomandibular disorder) and pain or tenderness in the jaw itself is not always present. Some common symptoms include:

• Clicking, popping or grinding

• Limited opening of the jaw, or inability to clench jaw closed

• Pain in the teeth, jaw, ear or upper neck

• Headaches and dizziness

So why do problems occur?

Like any joint in the body, the TMJ can be susceptible to strain or damage to the muscles, ligaments or tendons; dislocation or fractures. It can also become affected by osteoarthritis (wear and tear as we age), or generalized inflammatory conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis). Pain may come on for no apparent reason or there may be an inciting event (eg. Impact to the jaw, dental procedures, stress or biting into something unexpectedly hard).

There are 4 main muscles that control movement of the jaw, 3 extracapsular ligaments, and a disc separating the two bony surfaces that make up the joint. Muscles may become tight, weak or overactive; the disc may be displaced out of the joint; and/or the joints may be moving asymmetrically or out of alignment.

Poor posture often contributes to TMD as chin poke/forward head posture makes muscles (including those around the jaw) work harder to hold up the head.

What can be done about it?

Prognosis depends on the exact reasons for the problem, but is usually very good, with patients feeling significant relief within the first few weeks of treatment. Treatment also varies, as every case of TMD is different.

Common treatment programs involve:

• Muscle work: stretching, massage, trigger point release

• Joint mobilisation and movement correction

• Stabilisation and strengthening exercises for the muscles surrounding the jaw

• Posture correction

• Mobilisation for the neck muscles and joints

• Relaxation exercises

• Ultrasound, TENS, heat and ice to decrease swelling, improve circulation, and relieve pain

It is important if you think you may have a problem with your TMJ to have it properly assessed, so an appropriate treatment plan can be worked out. At Two Bears Physiotherapy, we are happy to investigate any issues you are having and determine their source and whether they are likely to respond to treatment.

Don’t put up with something that can be fixed!


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