Jaw Pain (Temporomandibular Disorder)


Having pain around the jaw area can have quite a large impact on daily living and functioning. Normal, daily activities such as eating, talking and laughing may be affected if you experience jaw pain.


5 common jaw pain symptoms include


  1. Facial pain when the jaw is being used

  2. Limited jaw movements

  3. Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw 

  4. Tension headaches

  5. Facial swelling


Some possible causes of jaw pain 

  • Teeth grinding or clenching

  • habitual support of jaw with hands on a desk or table

  • yawning or laughing

  • chewing food with harsh bites

  • after dental procedure such as tooth extraction, fillings and dentures

  • Lifestyle factors such as emotional stress, fatigue, sleep disturbances

  • TMJ dysfunction or degenerative arthritis

  • trauma such as a direct blow to the jaw


How is jaw pain treated?


If the cause and symptoms of jaw pain is minor, sometimes the jaw pain could resolve by itself over time. Some simple steps can be taken to alleviate jaw pain. Examples of such strategies can be avoidance of chewing gum, use of ice pack, eat soft food, cut food into smaller pieces and stop oneself from clenching teeth.


However, if the symptoms persist or starts to get worse, more active interventions may be needed to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and minimise stress associated with the pain. These treatment may include:


Medication - to reduce pain and severity of symptoms

Physiotherapy - to assess and treat primary and associated symptoms, improve jaw movements

and promote recovery

Use of mouth guard - at night time to reduce clenching and grinding of teeth

Surgery (rarely required) 


The most common cause of jaw pain is related to the disorders of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and muscles surrounding the jaw. TMJ disorder can be caused by muscle dysfunction in relation to teeth grinding and clenching, displacement of TMJ articular disc, wisdom teeth removal, trauma, stress and more. 

TMJ dysfunction can be diagnosed by a physiotherapist and treatment  includes manual therapy, dry needling , soft tissue massages and stretches to the temporomandibular joint, and treatment to the neck and upper back as appropriate. Stabilisation, relaxation and stretching exercises can also be used to treat TMJ. However, specific home exercise program (HEP)  will be recommended after a thorough TMJ assessment by a physiotherapist.