Jaw pain (TMJ)

Welcome to your “one-stop-shop” for jaw pain, orofacial pain, or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). I hope you find everything you need to get relief from this painful condition.

Why does my jaw hurt?

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a common condition that usually produces pain in the jaw, neck, and sometimes headaches. It currently affects more than 10 million people in the United States. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as simply “TMJ,” which is just the name of the joint itself. TMD affects more women than men and is most often diagnosed in individuals aged 20 to 40 years. Here are some of the most common causes of jaw pain.

  1. Chronic jaw clenching/grinding “bruxism”
  2. Teeth alignment issues “malocclusion”
  3. Poor posture
    1. Forward head/rounded shoulders
    2. Stomach sleeping
  4. Other lifestyle habits
    1. Desk job
    2. Talking on the phone
    3. Stress/anxiety
    4. Chewing gum and tough meats

What to do about it

  1. Night splint for grinding. Call now for an appointment
  2. See a physical therapist that specializes in treating TMD
  3. Home remedies
    1. Moist hot pack 20 min/day
    2. “Teeth apart” reminders throughout the day
    3. Limit chewing tough meats, hard candy, and gum
    4. Avoid talking on the phone for long periods (especially with a phone pressed up against your cheek)
  4. Stress reduction
    1. Deep breathing
      1. 3 of the best breathing exercises by Dr. Weil
      2. Can breathing exercises really change your health?
    2. Meditation
      1. How to meditate
      2. Helpful apps
        1. Insight Timer
        2. Headspace
      3. Podcast (this is my personal favorite)
    3. Relaxation workshops

What will happen at a visit with a physical therapist

  1. Reduce pain
    1. Moist heat
    2. Gentle massage
  2. Restore healthy jaw movement
    1. Joint mobilizations (small movements)
    2. Light stretching
  3. Relax muscles
    1. Dry needling technique
    2. Trigger point therapy
  4. Improve posture
    1. Stretching to neck and upper back
    2. Strengthening of key posture muscles


Under normal conditions, most pain goes away on it’s own after a few weeks. It’s as easy as blowing out the flame of a match. However, with pain that lasts longer than 3 months it’s more complicated. This pain can act more like a forest fire. It’s not as easy as just spraying water or waiting for it to burn out. A forest fire requires a comprehensive approach. It needs to be managed from the ground and the air, with chainsaws and heavy equipment, and long hours. If you want relief from chronic pain, it’s going to be a fight. It likely won’t go away on it’s own. You have to deeply invest in the process. While using all the tools listed above you’ll also need to start the DOC (direct your own care) process pioneered by Dr. David Hanscom. If you are serious about fighting the “forest fire” of chronic pain, consider the DOC process as absolutely MANDATORY.


*CAUTION: Jaw pain also can be a symptom of heart attack. Seek medical care immediately if jaw pain is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Left arm pain
  • Numbness in the left arm
  • Nausea