Jaw Pain and Physical Therapy

The jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) is where the jawbone attaches to the skull from two sides like a sliding hinge. Jaw pain can originate from the joint or muscles. It may develop due to reasons such as joint inflammation ( arthritis ), calcification (degeneration), trauma. Jaw pain often resolves on its own, but invasive procedures such as medication, physical therapy, and rarely surgery may be required for ongoing complaints.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Symptoms

  • pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain in the jaw joint on one or both sides
  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing
  • Pain and tingling radiating to the face
  • Problems in the jaw joint can also cause head and neck pain.
  • Locking in the jaw joint, difficulty when opening and closing. There may be a grinding sensation or cracking during movement. It is generally not important to have just cracking without pain or limitation of movement.
  • You should consult a doctor in case of persistent pain, tenderness or limitation of movement in your jaw.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

The bones that make up the jaw joint are covered with cartilage tissue, and there is a small disc between them that absorbs the shock. Thus, under normal conditions, the joint moves smoothly. It has two different movements, opening-closing and sliding. Wear or displacement of the disc that separates the bones, damage to the articular cartilage (due to calcification or rheumatism), traumatic injuries can cause jaw pain. In most cases, jaw pain can occur without any cause being identified. It is a more common problem in women.

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Risk factors

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some connective tissue diseases
  • osteoarthritis
  • Prior jaw trauma
  • habit of grinding teeth (bruxism)
  • Stress
  • undergo dental surgery
  • Infection


Diagnosis is made on the basis of history and physical examination. During the examination, the doctor examines the movement of your jaw. It evaluates whether there is a feeling of pain or friction when opening and closing, and the degree of opening. It can be checked for sensitivity by pressing it with a finger and examining it. Bone and soft tissues can be visualized by methods such as X-ray film, MRI or CT. Ultrasonography is useful in evaluating the functionality of the joint. In some cases, temporomandibular joint arthroscopy may be performed to make the diagnosis. In this method, the jaw joint space is viewed with a small camera.


Jaw pain can sometimes go away on its own. However, if it persists, it should be treated. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and antidepressants can be prescribed to relieve pain and muscle spasm.

Correction of problems such as grinding teeth, biting nails, tightening the jaw muscles, postural disorders , and stress are the basic steps in the treatment of jaw pain. Eating food by dividing it into small pieces, choosing soft foods, avoiding sticky foods, not chewing gum are other issues to be considered.

People with jaw pain may benefit from mouth splints (occlusal splints).

Physical therapy methods such as stretching and strengthening exercises of the jaw muscles, massage, TENS, ultrasound, heat or cold application can provide non-surgical recovery. Acupuncture, biofeedback , breathing-based relaxation techniques can be tried.

Injecting corticosteroids into the joint space can reduce inflammation in that area and provide healing. Botulinum toxin A injection into the jaw muscles is another treatment option.

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If the treatments we mentioned are not successful, surgery can be performed with a closed or open technique. The decision for surgery is made by weighing the possible risks and benefits.

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