Jaw Pain- How Osteopathy can help
You may think of osteopaths treating backs, but we treat a lot of other things too, including jaw pain and headaches. You may have pain in your jaw after visiting the dentist, not because the dentist’s done anything wrong, but because the muscles in your jaw can go into spasm after your mouth’s been held open so long. An osteopath can assess your jaw, treat the muscles spasm and get you out of pain.
You might also get jaw pain from clenching or grinding your teeth, or even from chewing gum. If you also experience clicking or locking of your jaw, this may indicate a problem within the jaw joint itself. On each side of your jaw, the joint contains a disc of cartilage which moves with the joint as you open and close your mouth and provides cushioning as you chew. Muscular imbalances around the jaw can lead to this disc not moving as it should, creating a click as the jaw rides over it (which may or may not be painful), or even locking if it fails to do so. Eventually, this may lead to thinning of the disc, and potentially increased wear to the joint surfaces themselves (arthritis).
At this stage, an osteopath can help reduce your symptoms (pain and restriction of movement), but if this is not enough, your osteopath can advise you on other options, including referral for advice on surgical options. However, addressing the problem early can help prevent things getting to this stage. This might include you changing your habits (chewing gum), using a mouth guard to reduce wear from clenching and grinding, or addressing the causes of any stress in your life, which can be behind these habits. Your osteopath can help with advice and appropriate referral, as well as using gentle techniques to address any muscular imbalances in your jaw, and giving simple exercises to help you manage the problem yourself.
We might also look at postural issues, and relieving muscle tension and restriction around the neck, upper back and shoulders. We often find that people who come to us for neck pain or headaches also have some degree of jaw problem, even if only minor. Jaw problems can sometimes contribute to neck pain and headaches, partly because there’s a mechanical relationship between the muscles and position of the jaw and the muscles and joints of the upper neck, but also because signals in the nervous system from these different areas share some of the same route to the brain - which means that sensitivity in one area can lead to sensitivity in the other. So, we’ll often look to relieve tension and sensitivity in both areas depending on what we find.
Often muscular imbalances around the jaw are simply that, but if you have significant malocclusion (ie your teeth not coming together properly, such as an underbite or overbite), this is something your dentist needs to look at, or possibly an orthodontist. We’ll always advise you if this is the case. Some treatment in partnership with the care they provide may still be appropriate.
If you have any questions, or would like to book an appointment, please give us a call
We’ll be happy to help.