Why does my jaw hurt?
There are many reasons why your jaw could be hurting. And there are a variety of causes of your jaw pain. It can be tough to know who to see first if you don't know the reason. Some people see a physical therapist first; some see a dentist first; some see their primary care first. Whoever you see, if you don't agree with their assessment, then go get a second opinion.
If your jaw is hurting, it could be caused by a problem with your teeth. You could have a cavity or abscessed tooth. You might have a cavity if your teeth feel sensitive or if it's painful to bite down or eat anything sweet, hot or cold.
Your next step is visiting your dentist. However, be aware that muscles can refer to the teeth. Some people end up having teeth pulled and still have the same pain because it wasn't a tooth problem!
Jaw pain rarely always equal a heart attack but pain in the jaw can be a signal of a heart attack. If your jaw pain is not associated with talking, eating, yawning, or kissing, then it may be pain from your heart. During a heart attack, pain can often be referred to a different part of the body.
Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are where your jaw connects to your skull right in front of your ears. A TMJ disorder could be the reason for pain in your jaw joints or jaw muscles.
TMJ disorders (TMD) can be caused by grinding your teeth, injuring the jaw, arthritis, inflammation, or the jaw not aligning properly. TMJ disorders can worsen by biting your nails or chewing gum.
TMD is treated best by physical therapists because they have the greatest number of interventions at their disposal. Plus, their interventions are the most conservative!
Your physical therapist will discuss your habits with you, including eating habits and other activities that could be causing you more pain. They will need to assess your posture, neck and jaw range of motion and strength.
A physical therapist can help you to regain normal jaw movement and decrease your pain. Manual therapy (including dry needling and joint manipulation), specific exercises and education can help decrease your pain and increase your movement.
If you are suffering from jaw pain and need guidance or treatment, contact Rainey Pain & Performance. Our team of physical therapy doctors is dedicated to helping you decrease your pain and increase your performance. Call us (520) 459-1386 or find us at
Dealing with TMJ
Do you experience any of the following:
When you come to see a physical therapist, we start by evaluating and observing. We will spend time looking at the upper portion of your spine, near your neck, and figure out how well the jaw is functioning, checking for any abnormalities. We will then carefully evaluate your jaw movement and examine the muscles, disc, and joints.
When you come to see us, our goal is to decrease the pain you are experiencing and restore your jaw's natural movement. We do this through various treatment methods. Carefully selected jaw and neck exercises, dry needling, and joint manipulation are some of the treatments that are most helpful for TMJ.