Jaw Pain: What Causes It & How Physiotherapy Can Help

The Temporomandibular Joint (also known as the jaw joint) is a complex little joint, and when painful it can affect two of the most important human functions – eating and speaking.

If you suffer from jaw problems, you are not alone. Over 2.5 million Australians suffer from jaw pain or dysfunction. The first port of call for most suffers is their local dentist or doctor, who sometimes have little training in musculoskeletal assessment and management.  That’s where physiotherapists come in.

There are two jaw joints.  These joints connect the jawbone to the skull, just in front of your ear. The jaw joints have the same basic structure (bones, muscle, nerves, discs etc) of most other joints in the body. It just happens to be in your face.

Jaw pain can occur due to many different reasons; however the main ones are structural problems and/or bad habits.

Your jaw joint can become stiff, and can pop and click. This can be painful. It also makes opening your mouth when yawning or chewing painful and hard to do. This stiffness is particularly common after facial surgery, some dental procedures or injury.

Habits such as clenching or grinding your teeth can also led to jaw pain. When you clench or grind your teeth, the muscles that close your mouth are constantly being used and they get tired, weak and sore. This can make chewing foods, such as steak, difficult to do.

So how can seeing a physiotherapist help? A physiotherapist can:

  • Mobilise a stiff or painful joint using specialised manual therapy techniques.
  • Identify the factor/s that influence or are causing the problem.
  • Provide specific exercises to address your problem.
  • Provide assistance post dental procedures where jaw pain is implicated.

If you have jaw pain and would like an assessment with one of our Physiotherapists, please call Physiotas on 6424 7511 to book an appointment at your nearest clinic.

About the Author:

Nathan Philip is a Physiotherapist at Physiotas in Launceston.

Nathan moved back to Tasmania after completing a Master of Physiotherapy degree at the University of South Australia. Nathan also has a Bachelor of Exercise Science degree from the University of Tasmania, where he gained a wealth of experience in exercise prescription and technique.

Nathan has worked closely with top levels athletes while working at Cricket Tasmania as a strength and conditioning coach. Nathan has a particular interest in neck pain, headaches, sporting injuries (especially ball sports) and pediatrics.

Outside of work Nathan enjoys playing and watching sport on weekends and he is also a keen surfer.