Due to a number of recent client questions about the jaw, we thought we would dedicate a blog to more information (please write back if you have other specific questions) …
Are your jaw muscles tight and sore?
You may be surprised to know that the strongest and hardest working joint in the body is the jaw or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It is almost constantly working, when we talk, chew or clench. With upwards of a couple of thousand movements each day, it comes as no surprise that some of the muscles we use in moving our jaw can become overworked and sore.
Tightness in the jaw is a common problem, and can lead to jaw or tooth pain, jaw clicking or teeth grinding, problems chewing, headaches, dizziness, earaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), eye pain or irritation and / or neck pain. And can often result in poor sleep, constant pain or discomfort and a general disturbance to your quality of life.
Most commonly, the masseter muscles around the jaw and the temporalis muscles up into your temples (superficially), and the medial and lateral pterygoid muscles (inside the mouth) are the culprits.
The medial and lateral pterygoid muscles are inside the mouth and with pressure, generally are very painful. Because of their difficult location, accessing them from inside the mouth (along the jawbone, behind the teeth; behind the teeth and backwards, towards the joint itself; and up underneath cheekbone), they are best assessed and treated by a professional.
Fortunately it is relatively easy to massage the superficial muscles yourself so long as you know where to work. And once this tension is released, headaches and neck pain etc. will often subside. A few techniques are offered at the end.
Some things to be mindful of, especially if pain continues, are that constant tension in these muscles can lead to the jaw being disarticulated, and that jaw pain can also be caused by malocclusion of the jaw (incorrect “bite”). While tension in the skull itself (from previous trauma, growth spurts and even pressures occurring at birth) can cause this, the feet and other factors affecting posture can also. These more complex conditions, can be assisted by some very specific dental devices. And the effectiveness of this treatment can often be speed up by reducing the associated tissue (membrane, ligament and muscle) irritation, supporting movement of the bones themselves into better alignment using gentle cranial osteopathic techniques and balancing postural factors using remedial massage and osteopathy and the like.
Ultimately we believe that a personalised combination of dental devices, postural and foot assessment, osteopathic treatment, remedial massage and possibly even soft proprioceptive innersoles, as well as self massage and relaxation techniques are often required for complete resolution of jaw tension and pain, especially in stubborn cases.