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Chronic pain of the joint of the jaw (also known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction) is the most common chronic musculoskeletal disorder of the facial region and as many as 1 in 20 currently experience it, and have unfortunately lived with it for years.


There is however no need for anyone to continue having chronic jaw pain.

The temporomandibular joint itself is a very complex joint in itself and thus has many areas that can cause pain. Some of the structures in the joint include a fibrocartilage disc, ligaments that define the movement limitations of the jaw so that there is no excess movement or structural damage occurring, muscles surrounding it for protection and movement, the skull and the mandible bone as well. The function of the temporomandibular joint is dependent on its rare structure, as it acts both as a hinge joint and sliding joint, which allows for greater range of motion but unfortunately an increase in motion often leads to a decrease in structural stability, leading to more injuries. As it is also one of the most joints in the body as well, there can be lots of overuse injuries to the tissues here and surrounding as well.

You should seek advice for your pain if you have any of the following:

  • Pain in front of the ear, down the jaw and into the face

  • Pain that worsens when opening or closing the mouth including talking, chewing, smiling, yawning and laughing

  • Clicking, crackling or grinding sounds that come from the jaw region

  • If your jaw ever feels stiff, it catches or it locks when it opens or closes

  • Do you suffer from headaches that start from the jaw or in front of the ear?

  • Inability to open or close the jaw properly

What can cause jaw pain?

  • Trauma

  • Poor dentition

  • Grinding your teeth

  • Stress and depression

  • Dental/orthodontic repair

  • Biomechanical compensation from years of poor posture

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As well as pain, according to research done in 2011, if you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction there is also an increased prevalence of you suffering other neurosensory conditions as well, including:

  • Earaches

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

  • Loss of hearing

  • Seizures

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting

Preventing Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

There are a few simple ways in which you can limit jaw pain in and around the joint. These include:

  • Proper dental hygiene and dental alignment

  • Decreasing stress in your life including, muscle relaxation, meditation, improved sleep

  • Proper posture at home, at work and during your leisure time

  • Use of a dental splint

  • Avoid chewing anything that you aren’t going to eat including chewing gum, your fingernails, pens etc.

  • If you do have pain get it checked out and make an appointment

  • If it has been chronic for many years then keep regular appointments so as not to keep aggravating it

How can you treat temporomandibular dysfunction?

There are a number of treatment methods in treating temporomandibular dysfunction, not all of which are aimed at the jaw itself. Some of these include:

  • Making sure that we first decrease the pain in the jaw region itself. This is done by mobilisation and adjustments of the jaw and soft tissue work of the chewing muscles

  • Next step is overall correction of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, 1st rib and shoulder complexes which all have interconnecting functions with the temporomandibular joint. At this stage various exercises will also be prescribed so that you can help to strengthen the area, begin proper correction of jaw opening and closing biomechanics and also muscle relaxation techniques will be issued as well

  • The final step is embedding the correction into a proper movement pattern with overall structural corrections as well

Every treatment is tailored specifically to you and the presentation of your symptoms and signs. Some factors that alter treatment and rehab protocol include chronicity of the injury, intensity of the pain, other biomechanical overlay and pain referral, amongst others.

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