Physio’s treat Jaw Pain

Published: 17 Feb 2020

Physio’s treat Jaw Pain

Do you suffer from:

  • Localised jaw pain or tenderness
  • Clicking, popping or grating sensations of the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tinitus/blocked ear
  • Pain with chewing
  • Inability to fully open the mouth
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Blocked sinus, tooth pain, neck stiffness, face numbness, twitching eyes/cheek?

These are all common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.

The temporomandibular joint – or TMJ

The temporomandibular joint or TMJ is the joint where your jaw bone (mandible) connects to your skull bones (temporal bones). It is a complex joint with lots of small and importantly very strong muscles that attach around the jaw to control it’s movement.  Your larger neck/shoulder muscles also have a role to play.   It is a complex joint that enables us to eat, chew and speak. However, if the TMJ is not working well, you can experience a wide range of symptoms.

locking jaw

Image: Anatomy of the TMJ along with just a few of the many muscles that may contributing to your TMJ dysfunction. There is also a small fibrocartilaginous disc that assists (or hinders) movement of the TMJ.

TMJ pain/dysfunction can be caused by:

  • Trauma to the teeth or jaw (i.e from a direct blow while playing sports)
  • Teeth grinding
  • Abnormal bite
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Poor cervical and thoracic spine posture/strength as this can cause added strain on the neck and jaw muscles
  • Arthritis or other inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders
  • Excessive gum chewing

So your Jaw is sore – what do you do now?

TMJ pain is often a result of a combination of contributing causes.  It can be hard to know exact what approach to take with treatment or WHO the best clinician is to see as there are a number of health professionals who are able to help with your TMJ pain/dysfunction. The most commonly seen professionals are:


Your dentist is often the first professional we think of seeing when out jaw hurts! They routinely will assist your condition by reviewing your bite, teeth alignment and may even prescribe a splint to assist with your TMJ movement – particularly closing. This type of treatment approach may be used temporarily for a period of weeks to months, or recommended as a more long term solution. Referral to an orthodontist may also happen to see if longer term teeth alignment solutions will assist with your jaw pain and dysfunction.

Physio – we can help!

Some of our physio’s have undergone extra training to assist with TMJ pain and function. After a thorough assessment of your TMJ movement, neck and back postures/movement and discussion of your presenting symptoms, a range of physiotherapy techniques may be used including:

  • Relieving pain and discomfort
  • Minimising stiffness in the temporomandibular joint through manual therapy techniques (external or internal)
  • Reducing tension in the muscles that open and close your jaw
  • Restoring normal function and alignment of the jaw
  • Reducing cervical (neck) and thoracic (mid-back) stiffness and addressing any postural influences on your pain here
  • Providing exercises and management strategies to minimise
  • Education on activities to limit, foods to avoid, stress management advice
  • Self-management strategies to improve mobility, alignment and ideally normal functioning of the TMJ
tmj pain

Physiotherapy treatment can be effective in the management of pain caused by TMJ dysfunction

If you have jaw pain or experience any of the symptoms above make an appointment to see our expert Physiotherapists who will assess and guide you in your recovery.