As stress mounts in our lives whether it is the holidays, a loss of a loved one or just burning the midnight oil, our jaw and head muscles can show the signs of stress by locking up or becoming painful. Have you woken up in the morning with a really tight jaw, go to take a bite of your sandwich or burger at lunch and find you can’t open your mouth as much as you want to to eat? Also a more hidden sign is a clicking sound near your ears when you open your mouth wide or when you open your mouth to yawn.
The above signs point to a particular joint in your body the Temporal Mandibular Joint and you are likely experiencing TMJ disorder. It’s a disorder that is non-specific but can occur from stress and tension in the joint, and tissue around your head and neck. Now before you rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on a night guard, I want to share my journey with you and go over some at-home care. To start you out, I am also going to point out when you should go to your doctor(s). I used the term doctor’s plural since I think the best course of treatment is done with a chiropractor and dentist working together.
When I was in high school like most of us, I had braces for 18 months and when I got mine off I would occasionally have flair ups of jaw pain and clenching where it was difficult to open my mouth fully. I mostly noticed it while taking scuba lessons and holding the regulator in my mouth and after a dive, I would have to massage my jaw to get it to open again. Over the years , I’ve gone through times where my jaw doesn’t hurt at all and other times when it’s very tight and causes me trouble sleeping and headaches. Here are the steps I took to improve my health and get out of pain.
See the chiropractor to align my jaw
Schedule myofascial work for the head and neck muscles both internal- inside the mouth and external on the cheek bones.
Reduce my stress trigger
Eventually get a de-programmer: This is a type of night guard that helps release the jaw muscles and your Dentist needs to select the right device for you.
Facial rollers and self-massage with icing afterwards are very helpful and recommended.
Cranio Sacral therapy
To see if you have a Distortion of the jaw check yourself out in the mirror. If you see any of the signs below, schedule an appointment with your chiropractor and they will guide you to your dentist or a specialist and maybe even send you to cranio sacral therapist if they don’t do it themselves.
See if one side of the jaw opens first and you can see this visually.
Put your hands on your jaw and see if you feel any bulging or clicking when opening the mouth.
Notice if the bottom of your chin deviates to one side creating a C shaped curve as you open your mouth.
One eye may appear larger or smaller.
Push on the muscles on the side of your face to see if any pain or tension is present.
This jaw pain can be very serious and in many instances can cause a migrainous type headache (pain so bad that it causes light sensitivity and nausea, without the neurologic component of a classic migraine), teeth pain, trouble eating and a stabbing pain in your cheek. Please don’t continue to suffer and seek care as soon as possible for best results and training on how to stop future flair ups.