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tis the season for tmj pain

14005463 - older man showing pain from an aching tooth or jaw

What is TMJ pain?

Consists of pain originating from the temporomandibular joint located in front of each of the ears where the skull (temple) connects to the jaw (mandible). You may mistake the TMJ for a simple hinge joint, however it comprises an articulating disc that allows us to move our mouths in many directions for speech and chewing food. TMJ pain also refers to tenderness in the surrounding muscles used to complete these actions including the masseter, medial pterygoid, lateral pterygoid and temporalis muscles.

One subtype of TMJ pain is myofascial pain dysfunction (MPD), which is considered a physical manifestation of psychological stress, without prior dysfunction of the joint itself. Pain occurs following episodes of jaw clenching or teeth grinding that may increase at times of stress such as that experienced during the holiday season. Often people aren’t aware that they are clenching or grinding – they just notice their jaw feels tight after a stressful day, or in the morning after a fitful nights sleep. Females are affected more than males in a ration 4:1 and the highest incidence is in young adults aged 20-40.

Symptoms of TMJ pain include:

Dull ache in the ‘chewing’ muscles

Pain that is worse with chewing

Locking or catching of the jaw with movement

Headaches, ear ache, or neck ache that may be referred from the TMJ.

Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)

History of jaw and/or facial trauma

How can osteopaths help?

The prognosis of TMJ disorders is improved with early diagnosis. It is necessary for the patient to obtain a diagnosis of TMJ pain to differentiate from other causes of facial pain such as temporal arteritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or trigeminal neuralgia. Osteopaths provide diagnosis, conservative treatment and education to help the restoration of normal muscle function and resolution of TMJ pain. If you or a family member suffer from TMJ pain see an osteopath for treatment of this condition.


Jess Round

This post was written by Dr Jessica Davies

You can find out more about Jess here


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