About : Jaw Pain

      The jaw, or temporal-mandibular joint, can get a lot of use in our day to day lives. Not only do we use this joint and the associated muscles every time we eat or drink, but we also put it under extra stress due to poor posture, clenching/grinding or tension as a result of an injury.

     Some of the muscles that close your jaw are the strongest (by weight/size) in the entire body! Your masseter muscle in particular is capable of closing the jaw against over 50 pounds of force. This strength allows us to chew and bite through tough and crunchy foods, but it can also put a lot of force on your jaw joint. People who overuse these strong closers of the jaw by clenching, chewing gum, etc. are likely to develop tension, trigger points and shortness in these muscles as well as restrictions in the joint. Tension in these muscles may also be a result of improper swallowing or breathing patterns, anatomical predisposition, whiplash or other trauma.

     Once these muscles become shortened or irritated, they can become painful and can restrict the movement of the jaw. This may feel like you cannot fully open your jaw or like your jaw is pulling towards one side. You may also experience clicking or popping sounds in the jaw. People with TMJ pain often report that they experience the most pain in the morning, after eating or after talking for long periods. Pain due to trigger points in the jaw muscles can be felt right in the jaw, as a headache, as a toothache or in the ear; some cases may result in some hearing loss or a feeling of pressure in the ear.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

     Massage therapy treatment can relieve tension and trigger points in the muscles of the jaw as well as decrease pressure on the temporal-mandibular joint. In my experience, people who have had minimal success with other physical therapy treatments for tension headaches benefit greatly from TMJ massage work. Techniques can be performed extraorally (outside the mouth) or intraorally (inside the mouth).

     Extraoral massage techniques are performed on the face and the neck. Some of the jaw muscles are accessible on the side of the head and face. Traditional massage techniques can be applied to these muscles to decrease tension. Traditional techniques may also be applied to the neck to assist with jaw pain. Poor posture through the neck can result in a head-forward position which puts strain on the jaw. Massage therapy can stretch and release shortened muscles of the neck to allow the head to sit in a more neutral position and decrease tension on the jaw. Some muscles of the neck also have a trigger point pain referral pattern that is into the jaw and face. Releasing these trigger points can decrease feelings of pain in the jaw.

     Intraoral massage techniques are performed inside the mouth. Some of the jaw muscles sit on the inside of the mandible (jaw bone). These muscles can only be accessed through the mouth. These techniques are performed gently with a gloved hand. These techniques are incredibly effective but can be fairly sensitive, so I typically only perform these techniques for a few minutes at a time as part of a full treatment session (much less intimidating than the dentist!) Treating the intraoral TMJ muscles is an essential step in decreasing jaw pain or related headaches. 

Please email me (emily.burns.rmt@gmail.com) if you have any questions regarding massage therapy treatment for jaw pain!

© 2019 by Emily Burns, RMT. Proudly created with Wix.com