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Understanding Jaw Pain: How to Find Relief

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is what most people know as their jaw and is located on the side of your face, just in front of your ears. The TMJ is a hinge joint and is formed by the lower jawbone (the mandible) and the side of the skull (the temporal bone). The jaw plays a pivotal role in breathing, eating, and speaking.

TMJ Dysfunction:

TMJ dysfunction is where movement at the jaw is limited and affects the joint itself and the surrounding muscles and ligaments. TMJ dysfunction causes pain in the jaw which can radiate down the neck and the face. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can vary from person to person however the most common symptoms include earaches and headaches and pain with opening and closing your mouth. You may also notice popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth.

Other symptoms include:

• Facial pain

• Neck pian

• Stiff/tight jaw

• Toothache pain

What causes TMJ Dysfunction?

There are a range of causes of TMJ dysfunction. Trauma to the joint can cause displacement or dislocation of the discs at the jawbone this can cause the clicking and popping noises, pain and limit the movement at the jaw. Other causes include: dental (tooth) issues, having an improper bite, wear and tear of the joint- usually caused by osteoarthritis, and jaw clenching & teeth grinding which may be linked to stress.

Systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, or other mechanical injuries to the jaw, head or neck may also contribute to pain.

What can I do to reduce the pain?

There are many treatment options for TMJ dysfunction depending on the severity of the case. Firstly, seeing an Osteopath can help to determine the source of the pain and the severity of the case. They can then prescribe a management plan that includes at home exercises to strengthen the jaw and surrounding muscles. Treatment wise, Osteopaths utilise hands on treatment via a combination of indirect and direct techniques to help reduce pain and discomfort and increase range of motion at the joint.


For most cases you can use some simple exercises and lifestyle changes to reduce the pain and improve function. This may include: self massage & joint mobilisation, avoiding hard to chew foods to reduce the amount of strain on your jaw will also help to reduce pain and improve the range of motion. Wearing a mouth guard or splint at night may also help to stop you from clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth.

Take home exercises!

Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve and help manage your TMJ pain from the comfort of your home. Exercises can help strengthen & release the jaw which should provide relief from symptoms.

Self-massage techniques:

You can relive tension and pain around your TMJ by massaging the tight muscles around the jaw and temples. This includes the masseter muscles around the jaw and the temporalis muscles on the side of your head up into your temples.

How to perform?

  1. Place 2 to 3 fingers on the muscles below your cheek bones. If you clench your teeth, you should feel the muscles tighten under those fingers.

  2. Press into the muscles and hold that pressure for 6 to 10 seconds.

  3. Keep your jaw relaxed and repeat in another tender or tight area of your cheek.


Tongue position exercises:

  1. Close your mouth with your teeth lightly touching, make sure not to clench your teeth.

  2. Rest the tip of your tong on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.

  3. While keeping your teeth gently together, run the tip of your tongue along the roof of your mouth as far back as it will go.

  4. Hold your tongue in this position and slowly open your mouth ensuring your tongue stays in contact with the roof of your mouth. Stop opening your mouth when you feel your tongue being pulled away from the roof of our mouth, you shouldn’t open your mouth more than this.

  5. Hold this position with your mouth open for five seconds and then relax.

  6. Repeat steps 1-3 slowly but firmly for the next 5 minutes.

Resisted mouth opening:

  1. Place your thumb under your chin to supply the resistance.

  2. Slowly open your mouth and supply the resistance through your thumb.

  3. Hold this position of 3 to 6 seconds and then slowly close your mouth.

  4. Repeat this process 10 times.

Resisted mouth closing:

  1. Squeeze your chin between your thumb and your index finger, with your index finger on the front of your chin.

  2. Open your mouth and then slowly close it while applying a resistance force through your fingers on your chin.

  3. Hold 3 to 6 seconds, and repeat 10x.

Note: You shouldn’t completely stop yourself from closing your mouth however apply enough resistance that you can feel this in your jaw. This exercise will help to strengthen the muscles surrounding your jaw.

TMJ and Osteopathy:

TMJ pain relief is possible with nonsurgical treatment. With appropriate treatment and management your TMJ pain and function can be improved.

Osteopathic treatment focuses on the connection between musculoskeletal dysfunctions and overall heath. By using this approach, our practitioners will not only treat your individual and specific case of TMJ dysfunction but also take into consideration the surrounding structures that may contributing.

At Complete Care Osteopathy in Lilydale, we have a comprehensive understanding TMJ dysfunctions. Our practitioners will assist in diagnosing your condition and providing individualised care.

If you'd like to know more, call us on

(03) 7036 6525


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