Jaw on Jaw
October 25, 2006 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I've been having incredibly unpleasant jaw pain for the past week. What can I do to make it stop?

The muscles in my jaw have been incredibly tight and sore for the past week, and I have no idea how to relax them. I've tried massages, heating pads, Advil, calcium supplements, tons of water, stretches, and meditation. Nothing in my life has recently changed, and I'm currently under a moderate amount of stress (which is completely normal).

I've had nighttime bruxism my entire life, but I wear a night guard and haven't ever had any problems relating to the bruxism. Some of my other sleeping problems include constant unpleasant dreams and a strange form of hold-my-breath apnea. I think the tension may be resulting from something I do while sleeping, but why did it suddenly appear?

I'm currently living in a foreign country so seeing a doctor and sleep clinics and the like would be really difficult. I feel like this is just a matter of relaxation, so I'd like to hear what others have done. I'm looking for things like super jaw relaxing yoga positions and pressure point massage.

Thanks!!! and help!
posted by defreckled to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had a similar issue and talked to my dentist.
I'll just pass on what he said to me fwiw:

1) Your night guard might be changing the way you close your jaw at night, with your point of hinging controlling the position of your lower jaw at night, instead of the orientation of your teeth. During the day, the orientation of your teeth judges how you close your jaw (there are some very technical terms I forget). I don't grind my teeth too badly, so the dentist suggested I stop wearing the guard for a week and see if I notice changes or at least break the cycle. I don't know how bad you grind your teeth, so for you it might not be so smart to do that...

2) Like neck pain, your jaw is a real hotspot for stress to build up. The first thing the dentist asked me was if there were any recent changes in lifestyle, stress, new job, relationships etc. Its amazing how much we take that stuff out on our face at night, and how they go away when we attend to them. Easier said than done, and I couldn't think of anything in particular.
posted by upc_head at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2006

I was going to tell you to get you a night guard, but I see you already have one. How long have you had it? Is it fitting loose or tight? Is it cracked? All of those things could mean it's not working as well as it should be. I have to get a new guard about every 3 years.

Do you chew gum? I've noticed that when I'm more stressed, I chew more gum, which leads to increased jaw pain.

When it's really bad, I massage my jaw joints firmly with each thumb. Not sure how helpful it is in the long run, but in the short run it helps.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2006

I used to have severe stress-related jaw problems, and I read about some exercises on the internet somewhere. My half-remembered version of them involves slowly opening and closing my mouth (open wide) about ten times, facing forward. Then turn your head to one side and open and close ten times. Then turn to the other side and repeat. This always helped relax my jaw. If you want to find the actual exercises, I think I was googling TMJ when I found them.
posted by gokart4xmas at 9:48 AM on October 25, 2006

Sounds like TMJ. I had this for about 3 weeks. Got so bad initially I thought I had an ear ache, when in fact I was clenching my jaw while I slept.

Try to do anything you can to relax. Don't worry about tomorrow's events when drifting off. Stay away from caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime. I would see a doctor though.
posted by PetiePal at 10:06 AM on October 25, 2006

Along with everything else you're doing, try sleeping on your back. I guess the logic is that it's harder to keep your jaw clenched when you're in that position. I have TMJ, and it helps me quite a bit when I manage to fall asleep on my back.
posted by amro at 10:20 AM on October 25, 2006

When this happens to me, I cut out crunchy foods: no carrots, apples, etc.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:24 AM on October 25, 2006

Not to be scary but isn't jaw pain sometimes related to heart trouble? My friend's father was having jaw pain. She had heard that it may be cause to worry and told him. She was right and thankfully it was caught in time (he had to have a few bypasses).
posted by Sassyfras at 11:09 AM on October 25, 2006

What stretches have you tried? Two exercises I've done for years that really help are:

1. Lay your thumb along your bottom teeth with the tip of your thumb on the back tooth and your first two fingers cupping your chin. Press gently down on the back teeth while lifting gently up on your chin with your fingers; hold for 10-30 seconds, rest, repeat. Do both sides, obviously.

2. Slide your index finger between your top teeth and your cheek. With your finger laying along the outside of your teeth, you will find a socket that your finger slides right into at the back of your mouth. Press firmly into this socket for up to a minute at a time--it might hurt, but in that "good pain" way that massage or PT sometimes provide. Do both sides. I am amazed by how this exercise loosens up my jaws when they're tight.

Now my keyboard is damp because I had to do that last one to figure out how to describe it.
posted by not that girl at 11:43 AM on October 25, 2006 [6 favorites]

I suffered with steadily increasing jaw pain earlier this year. I was stressed, and I clench my jaw unconciously when troubled. When I finally caved and went to the dentist, it turned out I needed a root canal. I had no tooth pain at all, only sensitivity to hot things. But those nerves run all up and down your jaw and pain radiates in weird ways.
posted by kimdog at 5:00 PM on October 25, 2006

Jaw pain is no fun. :(

notthatgirl's #2 exercise is a life-saver for me. my docs have emphasized to me that if my hand isn't *inside* my mouth, I'm not going to do any effective massage. I also do stretches like gokart4xmas describes. Usually i do all this in the shower so that the hot water can help loosen the muscles (and it's less messy).

I had surgery on my right TMJ in '92; now I can at least eat solid foods again but it's still problematic. Good luck finding what works for you!
posted by olecranon at 7:09 PM on October 25, 2006

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