Jaw Pain

Jaw Pain (Also called Temporomandibular Disorders)

‘Temporomandibular disorder’ (TMD) is the term used to describe bothersome symptoms related to the temporomandibular joint (jaw) and the surrounding soft tissues. Severe TMD symptoms can have a significant effect on quality of life and can include pain or tenderness in and around the jaw, facial pain, headaches, earache and toothache, neck pain, stiffness and tightness in the jaw or face, and clicking, popping or gritty noises when moving the jaw. TMD symptoms are usually caused by a combination of factors and so requires a holistic approach to management. Physiotherapists can complete a full musculoskeletal assessment, identify the source of your pain and help to identify and address the causes of your symptoms, ultimately reducing your pain and improving your function.

What is a Temporomandibular Disorder?

Temporomandibular Disorder’ (TMD) is the term used to describe symptoms related to the temporomandibular joint (jaw) and the surrounding soft tissues including muscles and ligaments.

Symptoms associated with TMD are very common and are reported in approximately 25% of the population, but the symptoms only become bothersome in approximately 5% of those who have TMD symptoms.

Severe TMD symptoms can have a significant effect on quality of life.

What causes Temporomandibular Disorder?

TMD can be related to a physically traumatic event such as head trauma, surgery, dental work, or a road traffic collision, however, TMD symptoms usually increase due to the build up of a number of factors including

  • Poor mouth habits (chewing pens, lips, nails, chewing gum etc)
  • Poor postural habits (slouching, resting your chin on your hand, holding your phone on your shoulder
  • Psychologically stressful times/events (for example, at work or home)

Possible symptoms of TMD can include….

  • Pain/tenderness in and around the jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches, earache and toothache
  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness/tightness felt in the jaw or face
  • Clicking, popping or gritty noises when moving the jaw.

How can I help myself?

The majority of TMDs can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment and advice, however, your attitude and the actions you take are the most important factors in preventing long-term problems. The most effective way to manage symptoms of TMD are to

  1. Identify triggers you can minimise. These can include chewing gum/pens, biting your nails, chewing only on one side, eating hard/chewy foods, slumped postures or resting your chin on your hands.
  2. Talk to your GP or pharmacist about what pain relief may be right for you. If your pain is controlled, you will be able to maintain more movement.
  3. Apply gentle heat (hot water bottle of microwaveable wheat bag) to reduce pain and muscle spasms and improve mobility.
  4. Self-massage using your fingertips in a circular motion can reduce pain and muscle spasms.
  5. Always try to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible.

How can a physiotherapist help?

If you feel you need some help controlling your symptoms, your physiotherapist is there to work with you to

  • help you understand your condition,
  • help identify your individual triggers and provide advice on how to minimise these,
  • develop symptom management strategies so you always feel in control,
  • provide an individualised exercise program, and
  • provide manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as massage, mobilisation or acupuncture.


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No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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