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There are a number of factors that contribute to jaw pain while eating, yawning or simply opening your mouth.

Often times, jaw pain is caused by muscle tightness, spasm or weakness. Typically, muscle tightness, spasm and/or weakness does not occur on their own, rather they are caused by something.

So what causes the muscle tightness, spasm and/or weakness of the jaw? The jawbone fits together with the skull forming a hinge joint. This hinge joint can be “pulled” out of position, which can cause the jaw to open unevenly (one side of the jaw opens further/faster than the other side). When this occurs, it can cause irritation of the joint surfaces, which results in pain just below the inside of the ear, which is where the jaw bones fit together.

Another big contributing factor to jaw pain is poor posture, such as slouching when you sit. You may be wondering how poor posture could possibly be contributing to your jaw pain.

Well, when you sit in a slouched position, your upper and lower back are rounded and your shoulder blades roll forward away from each other. In addition, your head “juts” forward. As a result, slouching, rounded shoulders and forward head position place uneven and abnormal pressure on the jaw since the muscles that attach to the jaw are not working together evenly, which then causes irritation of the jaw joints.

In turn, this irritation of the jaw and its joints causes inflammation around the jaw, which then leads to muscle spasms and cramping, as well as pain and popping at the attachment of the jaw. Often times, headaches located in the back of the head also accompany the jaw pain as well.

So how can you fix this?

Your jaw needs to be assessed to ensure that the left and right sides of the jaw are opening equally and the joints of the jaw are functioning correctly. You need to be instructed in the proper exercises and stretches in order to reverse the effects of poor posture. You need to be instructed in a specific set of jaw exercises, which help you to re-align your jaw in a neutral position.

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In addition, you may need to wear a specially designed custom fit mouth guard when you sleep at night in order to help “re-educate” the muscles that control the jaw to help promote proper movement and function of the jaw.

The physical therapists at Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy are experts in getting rid of your jaw pain and improving your posture so that you can talk, yawn and eat normally without jaw pain or headaches.

Here’s what you can do next:

  • Call our office at 717-245-0400 to schedule your one-on-one free screen with one of our experts so that we can listen, explain and show you how we can help you get your life back.
  • If you would rather receive more information regarding jaw pain, please email me at smiller@cardinmillerpt.com and I will send it to you.

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Steve Miller is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy and can be reached by email at smiller@cardinmillerpt.com. His column will appear bi-monthly in the Thrive section of the Sentinel and on Cumberlink.com.

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