23 Tue

The Cause Of Your Jaw Pain Or Headaches Could Be Right In Front Of Your Face

Calls from people in the Madison and Chatham areas with complaints or concerns of pain or clicking in their jaw or even headaches, have become more frequent.  Unfortunately the rise of this complaint comes as no surprise.  The causes of these problems might be right in front of your face.  

Two factors over this past year have been that we are all wearing masks and we all have at least a bit higher stress level than under normal circumstances.  Wearing a mask and stress can both have a big impact on the muscles about the face, mouth, head and neck.  These are the muscles that control the joint that opens and closes the mouth known as the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).  


The TMJ is located just to the front of either ear.  It is one of the most used, as well as most under-appreciated and misunderstood joints in the body.  As you can imagine, the TMJ and adjacent muscles can get quite a bit of use everyday with talking, eating, yawning, smiling and frowning. What’s more, even at night, grinding teeth or just shifting out of joint from unsupported sleep positions can affect TMJ health.


Just like any other part of the body, the muscles around the face, mouth, head and neck can get strained.  This causes an imbalance in the TMJ and the whole area can become tense, painful and dysfunctional. This syndrome is called Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction or TMJD.  

People experiencing TMJD may feel a pain in either or both sides of the jaw or in their ear, knots or spasms in the cheek or neck, clicking in the jaw, headaches and in some cases neck pain, spasm and stiffness.  In extreme cases, the jaw can slip out of joint and be unable to close without relocation.

  You may not even realize it when you’re masked up, but there may be things that are causing your extra stain on your TMJ and associated musculature.  Here are some tips or things to be aware of so you can avoid or improve a painful TMJD situation.

Get more great tips, advice and videos by visiting www.smilebetterwithpt.com.

Avoid Protrusion — It’s common to protrude your lower jaw to attempt to adapt to the fit of the mask.  This is extra work against the ear straps that are pulling in the opposite direction all day long.  If you need to move or adjust your mask, don’t do so by shifting your jaw around. This habit can really add up the reps of wear on the TMJ each day.  

Focus on breathing and stay relaxed.  Many people revert to mouth breathing while wearing a mask.  This inefficient way of breathing can create a low level, but a still vicious cycle of a heightened state of stress.  Too long to explain here, so let’s keep it simple and just gently rest the tongue on the roof of the mouth and breath through your nose into your belly.

Rotate masks and take regular mask breaks.  Even those who have worn masks previously for their profession are suffering from mask fatigue as there is now never any downtime from it.  What you can do is rotate the style or type of mask (as long as it is acceptable) throughout the week.  Also, plan mask breaks at which you are stretching and moving your TMJ.  I suggest an over-enunciated recitation of the vowels several times.   

Unfortunately, many people either don’t realize the causes of their terrible TMJD symptoms or just don’t believe that anything can be done about it.  There is so much more that you can do to help your TMJ problems.  To stop your TMJ pain or headaches so you’ll be smiling again, speak directly to one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy. 

Call 973-270-7417. 

Also get more great tips, advice and videos by visiting www.smilebetterwithpt.com.

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