It’s easy to overlook the physical manifestations of stress or tension, especially because our bodies experience many stressors each day. While you may be able to ignore pain coming from your jaw, tight jaw muscles can lead to additional pain in your head, teeth, neck, and shoulders. If you’re suffering from tight jaw muscles, we’ve outlined a few techniques to help loosen them to find relief. 

Women with a headache

What Causes Tight Jaw Muscles?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a ball-and-socket joint like the ones in your shoulders. Just like other parts of the body, your jaw can fall victim to tension and overexertion. It’s important to note that one issue may not be the sole reason for tight jaw muscles. Stress, anxiety, grinding your teeth, and medical conditions such as arthritis can all contribute to tightness in your jaw. 

What are the Symptoms of Tight Jaw Muscles? 

While jaw tension can be hard to identify, identifying telltale symptoms early on may help to prevent more severe conditions later on. Common symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain: A persistent, aching feeling in your jaw area is a clear sign of muscle tension.
  • Headaches: Tension in the jaw may radiate to the temples, causing an increase in dull, throbbing headaches. 
  • Clicking or popping sounds: If your jaw clicks or pops when you open and close your mouth, you may be suffering from muscle tension.
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth: Tight muscles in your jaw may restrict your range of motion. 
  • Facial discomfort: Discomfort in the cheeks or around the ears can be linked to jaw tension.

How to Loosen Tight Jaw Muscles

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with relief methods you can use in your day-to-day routine. Be sure to try a variety of techniques to find the best solution for your jaw pain. 

Heat and Cold Therapy

Rotating between hot and cold compresses can help to reduce inflammation in your jaw. Also known as contrast therapy, ice packs will decrease blood flow, while warm compresses increase it. Alternating the two helps to reduce inflammation, encourage circulation, and loosen tight muscles. 

Stretching Exercises

Simple jaw-stretching exercises promote flexibility and work to relieve tension in your jaw muscles. Performing stretching exercises two times daily for 30 seconds works to release the muscles in your jaw without causing you too much pain. 

Relaxation Techniques

You may notice that your jaw clenches throughout the day—sometimes without you even noticing. Introducing mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises into your daily routine gives you an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and notice any areas of tension. These techniques serve as a gentle reminder to unclench your jaw muscles and any other parts of your body where you’re holding stress. 

Diet and Hydration

Alleviate jaw tension by staying hydrated and away from hard-to-chew foods. You’ll want to avoid excessively chewy, crispy, crunchy, and tough foods that could put extra strain on your jaw muscles. 

Posture Correction

Poor posture can lead to a list of complications, including increased tension in your jaw muscles. Positions, where your head leans forward for extended periods of time (i.e. sitting at a desk), put extra strain on your neck and jaw, leading to pain or difficulty opening your jaw. 

Seeking Professional Help

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe jaw muscle tightness and associated symptoms, seeking professional help is essential. Dentists, orthodontists, and physical therapists can offer valuable guidance and work to find the source of your jaw pain. They may recommend treatments such as splints, dental adjustments, or specialized exercises that address your pain and discomfort. 

Find Jaw Relief with Carolina TMJ

Take back your life when you work with our team at Carolina TMJ & Facial Pain Center. We work diligently to address our patients’ concerns and identify solutions to alleviate jaw pain. Schedule your appointment today.

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