A tight jaw can be a side effect of several conditions. Stress, teeth grinding and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD or TMJD) are common culprits. There are ways to treat a stiff jaw to loosen the painful tension around the mouth.
From home remedies to over-the-counter meds, so you don’t need to suffer.
Please always consult your health practitioner when you take pain medications, regardless of the schedule. We also advise that you should discuss any lifestyle changes with your doctor to ensure that it is the right move for you and your health.
Note: Excessive chewing, even without an underlying cause, can result in a tight jaw.
Stress is the most common reason for clenched muscles, let alone a clenched jaw. When the body is stressed out, it tenses up, and the muscles tighten. According to Healthline, feelings of stress and anxiety can sometimes cause you to inadvertently clench your jaw or grind your teeth while you’re asleep. Many people who suffer from stress-related conditions do not notice that they clench their jaw, even while fully awake.
Constant clenching over a long period of time can cause feelings of tightness in the jaw and pain during sleeping and waking hours. The pain may be worse while you eat or talk.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
If you have been experiencing pain in your neck, head or back, you may be suffering from temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
The TMJ is a small, intricate joint that has a disc to stabilise it and to obscure muscles and ligaments that keep the joint in place and help move it, says Very Well Health.
TMD disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and the nerves linked to chronic facial pain are often misdiagnosed. Experts say that approximately 70% of neck problems may be related to a dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint, Affinity Dental reports.
The TMJ is situated on the face between the temple and the jaw.
URMC elaborates that a displaced disk could be a disk in the cushion of cartilage between the head of the jaw bone and the skull. Or it may mean an injury to the rounded end of the jaw bone that articulates with the temporal skull bone, also known as the condyle.
Symptoms of TMD include headaches, pain behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, or back and intermittent bouts of lockjaw. Some patients also complain of bouts of dizziness, tooth sensitivity, and earaches. Excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing and speech can cause TMJD.
Try to relax your jaw and face muscles whenever you think about it. If you feel the tension starting to build, loosen the lower jaw by letting it hang freely.
Sufferers of TMD usually stick to softer, easy-to-chew foods to avoid extra strain on the jaw.
Use moist heat or cold packs, Web MD suggests. Apply an ice pack to the side of your face and temple area. This is effective if done in ten minute sessions, with breaks in between.
After doing a few jaw stretches, hold a warm towel or face-cloth to the side of your face for about 5 minutes. Perform this routine a few times each day.
An age-old disease, caused by a bacterial infection is diagnosed through the presenting of a locked jaw. Children all around the world receive several vaccinations for tetanus, and a booster shot is recommended every few years throughout your life.
One can contract the bacteria that cause tetanus from working in contaminated soil, or being cut by rusty metal.
Symptoms include stiffness in the abdomen, trouble swallowing and painful muscle contractions in the jaw and neck.
What can be used to soothe a tight jaw?
Prescription medications, including muscle relaxants or antidepressants and painkillers can take the edge off.
Many physiotherapists will be able to give you a proper facial massage to release the tension in the jaw. This should be administered with caution to avoid permanent injury. Deep tissue massage can be damaging, so always go to a registered practitioner.
There are many online articles that guide you through self-massage, but be wary; you could hurt yourself if you put pressure on the wrong points on your face.
Healthline explains: Massaging your jaw may help increase blood flow and reduce muscle tightness. You can try this by opening your mouth and gently rubbing the muscles next to your ears in a circular motion. This is the area where the temporomandibular joints are located. Try this several times a day, including right before bedtime.
Getting a mouth guard helps with both teeth grinding and TMD. This will help reduce wear and tear on the teeth. It may also help to eliminate jaw tightness and pain. If you have TMD, your dentist will probably recommend a mouth guard called a splint.
If the tight jaw is caused by stress, a lifestyle change may be in order. You will need to combat the stressors that are causing you to tense up. This could mean a change at the office, or a change of diet. Stay hydrated. Take enough breaks. If your stress level is starting to take a physical toll, you may need to consider going to therapy. Speaking to a psychologist can give you a safe space to vent; and can even be the beginning of a way out of the stressful situation.