I wake up with a sore jaw every morning. Is there anything I can do about this?
The jaw, or Temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and surrounding muscles can often be the cause of soreness at or around the jaw on one or both sides. Common complaints may include muscle soreness, a sensation of tightness and difficulty opening the mouth fully, clicking, and/or headache.
TMJ soreness in the morning is most likely related to clenching and grinding during the night resulting in increased muscle tension in the face and jaw. Other factors that can result in TMJ soreness include poor postural habits, stress and anxiety, and dysfunction within the joint itself (Temporomandibular dysfunction or TMD).
There are a few simple steps that can be attempted to decrease morning TMJ soreness.
- Before going to bed, apply heat layered with a towel to the muscles around the jaw and face for 5-10 minutes. Follow this with light massage over the muscles of the jaw (under cheekbones and over the temples.)
- Throughout the day, monitor jaw clenching. Position the lips and teeth slightly apart to allow the muscles to relax.
- Check your posture. A forward head position can unnecessarily increase stress to the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
If these simple steps do no help to resolve your issues, consult with your physician. Oftentimes, a short course of physical therapy is appropriate to address posture, relieve muscle and TMJ pain, and improve mobility.
The author of this article is Kathy Prampin, PT from Athletico Lincoln Park/Lakeview.