Got jaw pain?
How about clicking or popping when you eat, yawn or talk? Jaw pain can stem from the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and may be a source of pain, clicking, popping, clenching, grinding, or changes in your bite. TMJ dysfunction can even cause pain to spread to the ear, neck and head.
While direct injuries to the TMJ can cause pain in the jaw, such as those from playing sports or accidents, there are other causes that you may not have considered. The pelvis plays a role because the whole spine, including the head (and ultimately the jaw,) are stacked on top of it. Therefore, a twist or shift at the pelvis can cause a shift all the way up. Extensive dental work, whiplash car accidents, surgery, birth trauma, and even suppressed emotions can also lend themselves to pain and dysfunction in the jaw.
So what can you do to help yourself if you’re suffering from jaw pain?
1- Try this simple self-release to relieve jaw paiN.
This tip may be done at a desk or table. Just follow the steps below.
- Rest your elbows on the table, then find your jaw just below where it meets your head. To do so, open and close your mouth a couple times. Feel for the nodular area near your ear where the TMJ hinges open and closed.
- Rest the heel of your hands (just below the knuckles) below the TMJ and cheekbones. Gently press your hands together. This should be very gentle, just enough to give your face a little hug to grasp the mandible.
- Next, gently draw your hands down toward the table, like you’re trying to pull the mandible down from where it meets your head, just enough to take up the slack in the joint. When you start to feel some resistance, like pulling, stop and hold right at the barrier.
It will take 90-120 seconds for your body to respond to the gentle pressure, then you will notice a softening occur. Be patient and don’t force anything to happen. It takes time for the release to start. Hold for 3-5 minutes total, following your jaw where it softens. Keep in mind one side may release more or quicker than the other side; that’s ok….let your body lead the way.
2- Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
This places stress onto your jaw and can cause further stress and strain. It’s best to sleep on your back, but sidelying is an option, too. If you sleep in sidelying, use a body pillow that you can hug between your knees and chest so that you don’t roll directly onto your jaw during the night.
3- Do gentle range-of-motion exercises- but don’t force things.
Open your mouth as wide as you can and work on lateral mobility side-to-side with your mouth slightly open. Work within a pain-free range-of-motion, meaning no forcing and only within a range that isn’t increasing your symptoms.
4- Bring awareness to your daily habits.
If you find yourself clenching your jaw when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax the muscles of your face and jaw. If you rest your head or jaw on your hand during meetings, consider ditching the habit. If your grind your teeth when you sleep, get a mouth guard to rest your jaw. If your pain is a chronic condition, you may benefit from downloading my free Chronic Pain Guide to learn additional ways to care for yourself.
5- Consider physical therapy.
It will take the guesswork out of recovery and help you heal faster!
Specifically a PT trained in Myofascial Release who can assess the soft tissue (fascia) and muscles around your jaw, ear, head, neck, and spine. They can determine where the strain patterns are in your body and help you unravel them. They can even show you more ways to care for yourself. It will take the guesswork out of recovery and help you heal faster!
Here’s a video I made to help you get started.
Stay tuned until the end, where you’ll learn a bonus tip you can try at home or work.