Jaw pain, clicking, and limited movement while eating are not just minor inconveniences—they can significantly disrupt your daily life and social interactions. Whether it's the difficulty in enjoying your favorite foods like a crusty piece of bread or the embarrassment of audible clicks during a meal, issues with the jaw can be both painful and socially awkward. These symptoms are often associated with problems in the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), which might be linked to a variety of causes, from muscular imbalances to underlying neck issues. In this blog, we'll explore the complexities of TMJ disorders, how they're related to other parts of your musculoskeletal system, and how osteopathic treatment can offer relief.

Q) Why does my jaw hurt?  Why does it click when I eat?  Why can't I open my mouth very wide?

A) Jaw pain or clicking or restrictions in movement can be so frustrating! It can restrict what we eat – who wants to chew hard on some lovely crusty bread if it’s going to give us pain? Or perhaps you are getting annoyed with the looks and comments friends and family make when you are eating, and your jaw keeps clicking over and over again?  It can be so embarrassing for you and impacts on your enjoyment of the time spent with friends and family.

There are quite a few reasons why the jaw–TMJ (temporal mandibular joint) can be painful, clicky or restricted in movement.  Sometimes, it’s muscular, sometimes more structural – like the joint itself, but often, strangely enough, it can actually be caused by an upper neck problem.  Lots of cases of jaw dysfunction, or TMD (temporal mandibular dysfunction), have been shown to be caused by neck problems.  This is because the neck and jaw are fundamentally related with regard to movement.  Have you ever tried yawning without moving your head/neck?  It’s really difficult, this is because as we open our mouths, the junction (joint) between the head and neck extends and your head tilts back a little and as you close your mouth, the joint flexes and your head returns back to its normal position.  This means that if there is a problem with the mobility of your upper neck, it can restrict the opening of your mouth.

Imbalances in the jaw muscles can also be a problem and lead to the jaw being slightly misaligned when opening and shutting; this can lead to pain and clicking, etc.

Osteopathic treatment for jaw problems can be very effective due to the above mechanisms.  Treatment involves a thorough examination of all of the structures of the head and neck and of the mechanics of the TMJ itself to determine where the problem is coming from.  Then targeted treatment using a variety of techniques will be applied along with appropriate exercises of the neck and jaw for you to take home and practice to help alleviate this frustrating and painful condition.

Dealing with TMJ disorders involves more than just treating the jaw; it requires a holistic approach that considers the interconnectedness of the musculoskeletal system. Osteopathic treatment provides a comprehensive examination and targeted treatment strategies that address not only the jaw but also any related issues in the neck and head that could be contributing to your symptoms. With the right combination of professional care and at-home exercises, you can alleviate the discomfort and limitations caused by TMJ disorders. Regaining pain-free jaw movement can greatly improve your quality of life and allow you to enjoy social interactions and meals without discomfort or embarrassment.