Chiropractors can treat more than your spine! Here at CHIRO FOR MOMS / CHIRO FOR KIDZ, we address all kinds of pain conditions including jaw pain. This blog discusses causes of jaw pain + our 6 PRO TIPS for jaw pain in Moms and Kidz.
Jaw pain is annoying ~ it's a joint that never rests [ hello eating + talking ]! The ‘jaw joint’ is technically called the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. The TMJ acts as a hinge connecting the jaw to the skull. Between the two bones is a soft disc [similar to the ones in your spine].
The pain typically stems from dysfunction or inflammation within the joint.
Common Causes :
— Teeth grinding [ bruxism ]
— Anxiety or stress causing muscles tension / jaw clenching
— Open mouth posture [ wearing a mask can exacerbate this! ]
— Going to the dentist [ prolonged open mouth and strain ]
— Ill-fitting retainers / mouth guards
— Arthritic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis [ less common ]
TMJ dysfunction also happens with littles for similar reasons! Kidz too can adapt clenching or grinding habits. Jaw tightness is also something we see in newborns ~ due to inherent stress of the birthing process. Children with tongue or lip ties also can develop tightness in this joint, due to the tissue restrictions and open mouth posture. Proper jaw function is essential for opening AND closing of the mouth. It is also important for our little ones learning to talk!
In the clinic, we look at both the neck and jaw when treating TMJ dysfunction. With this condition, it’s common to find restrictions in the upper cervical spine [ neck ]. Adjustments calm muscle tension in the upper neck and allow proper information to the nerves communicating with the jaw and its musculature.
2. Intra-oral trigger point / massage :
Muscle tension is a key component to jaw pain and its causes. There are muscles inside the mouth, the medial and lateral pterygoid muscles, which act to move the jaw side to side and forward. They are common problem muscles with clicking jaws that shift to one side during opening.
3. Muscle work : jaw + neck muscles
On the outside of the jaw, there are two muscles key for jaw function that we focus on. The TEMPORALIS in the temple area and above the ear + the MASSETER muscle located on the upper cheek angle, in front of the ear. Working to release tension in these muscles can be especially helpful in kids because it can be done at varying intensities.
Gentle [Kidz] Technique :
Begin by placing a finger directly in front of the ear where the TMJ joint is located. Using gentle but firm pressure, traction down the jaw. Repeat 3-4x each side.
4. Craniosacral Therapy:
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle technique used to release soft tissue tightness + tension in the fascia surrounding the brain + spinal cord. The cranial bones overlap during the birth process to pass through the birth canal. CST helps guide these bones in the proper direction after birth ~ preparing it for the massive amount of neurological growth than occurs within the first year of life. Like we mentioned, the skull and jaw come together to form the TMJ. When one is moving well as it should, it benefits the other. CST works to release the restriction in the cranial bones and their surrounding tissues.
5. Diet Modifications
Take care to choose foods that are kind to your jaw. Hard foods like carrots and some candy require a lot of muscle work, which can be tricky for muscles that are already sore. Large sandwiches or burgers can also be difficult since it usually requires opening your mouth wide.
6. Mouth ‘Posture’
Practice good mouth posture to help relieve tension of the TMJ and surrounding musculature. Your mouth should be closed with your jaw relaxed and your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth / hard palate. If you wear a mouth guard, retainer, or any other oral device, make sure it fits properly and allows your jaw to rest properly. You can then comfortably breath through your nose.