When the mouth opens, the lower jaw moves and separates from the temporal bone of the skull. But when this natural movement is limited due to pain or discomfort, it’s known as jaw locking. This condition can cause significant limitations in a person’s quality of life, since it limits their ability to talk, eat, yawn, and perform other routine activities. However, it’s essential to understand the underlying causes and symptoms to treat jaw locking, which is why an accurate diagnosis is so important.
Pain And Locking Of The Jaw
Jaw locking is something that can be annoying to deal with in itself, especially when it occurs frequently and starts to interfere with your ability to speak, bite, chew, or even swallow. Unfortunately, it can be accompanied by various types of pain as well, including:
- Headache: Headaches can result from both jaw locking and other causes. They can be the result of tense or knotted jaw muscles that are placing stress on the head.
- Jaw pain: Jaw pain is often a result of inflammation or soreness from clenching, grinding, and other habits that put stress on the joint.
- Earache: Jaw locking can also cause pain in the ear, as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is connected to the ear.
What Causes The Jaw To Lock?
Jaw locking can be caused by many factors, including:
- Injury or trauma to the jaw: Accidents or injuries to the jaw can cause it to become locked, due to inflammation or changes in the surrounding muscles and ligaments.
- Stress and tension: Feelings of stress and tension can cause the jaw muscles to contract, leading to pain and discomfort.
- Misalignment of teeth: If the teeth are misaligned, it can cause the jaw to lock due to strain on the temporomandibular joint.
- Tumors or cysts: Tumors or cysts near the jaw can cause it to become locked due to pressure or inflammation.
Possible Medical Conditions Associated With Jaw Locking
In addition to some of the more common causes of jaw locking listed above, there are also some medical conditions that can cause the jaw to become locked. These include:
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
TMJ disorder affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is located between the lower jaw and the skull’s temporal bone. This disorder can cause pain, locking, and clicking in the jaw due to inflammation or misalignment of the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. It can cause joint inflammation, leading to pain and stiffness. This can result in jaw locking due to the strain on the TMJ.
Muscle spasms can occur in any of your muscles, including the jaw muscles. These spasms can force the jaw to become locked due to tension and inflammation in the area.
A herniated disc happens when a tear or bulge in the spinal cord causes pressure on the surrounding nerves. A herniated disc can cause numbness, pain, and tingling in the jaw due to pressure on the nerves that control jaw movement. This can lead to the jaw becoming locked due to inflammation or tension.
Bruxism is a condition that causes people to clench and grind their teeth. This can put a lot of strain on the jaw, leading to pain, discomfort, and even locking of the jaw.
When To Seek Medical Care
If you begin experiencing jaw locking on a regular basis and it’s starting to interfere with your daily activities, it’s vital to seek medical attention. If you’re experiencing other painful symptoms when your jaw locks, you should consult a doctor immediately. A doctor will diagnose the root cause of your jaw locking and recommend a course of treatment to alleviate the discomfort and restore the health of your jaw.
The diagnosis process usually starts with a physical exam and a discussion about your personal and family medical history as well as your current symptoms. Imaging tests, such as MRIs or X-rays, will be ordered to get a better look at the structures of your jaw joint. Once the underlying cause of the jaw locking is determined, the doctor will recommend treatment options.
What Happens If It Is Left Untreated
If jaw locking is left untreated, it can lead to several serious complications. The strain placed on the jaw joint due to prolonged locking can cause damage and weakening of the joints, leading to long-term pain and dysfunction. It can also increase your risk of developing other medical conditions such as headaches, earaches, and even TMJ disorder. In addition, untreated jaw locking can lead to difficulty eating, talking, and sleeping, due to pain and discomfort. Even if your jaw locking isn’t causing significant pain or discomfort, you should still have it checked out
Conventional Treatment For Jaw Locking
Depending on the diagnosis, a traditional doctor will typically recommend one or more of the following more conventional treatments:
Most traditional doctors will prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and pain. These can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, or opioids. However, be wary about any medications you take to help with your pain.
Although they can help provide short-term relief, there are several risks to be aware of, such as potential side effects, allergic reactions, and habit-forming risks. In addition, medications for pain and inflammation will only alleviate the symptoms – they won’t solve your jaw-locking problem.
Physical therapy is another possible treatment for jaw locking. Physical therapists identify and treat muscle and joint problems, such as those associated with jaw locking. They can provide exercises to help loosen tight muscles and improve your jaw’s range of motion.
The goal of physical therapy is to reduce pain, restore function, and prevent future episodes of jaw locking. Additionally, by strengthening the surrounding jaw joint, physical therapy may also help reduce the risk of future injuries or dysfunction.
In some cases, dental treatments may be necessary to treat jaw locking. This could include braces to help realign the teeth and reduce strain on the joint, or even surgery to repair damaged structures in the jaw. If you have a misaligned bite or other dental problems contributing to your jaw locking, your dentist will work with you and your doctor to find a solution.
Invasive treatments may be recommended if your jaw-locking symptoms are serious and other treatments have not been successful. However, these more invasive treatments should only be used as a last resort when all other treatment options have failed. They include:
- Injections: Injections of corticosteroids or local anesthetics can help reduce inflammation and pain. They can, however, cause side effects such as allergic reactions, bruising, and other complications.
- Arthrocentesis and arthroscopy: These procedures involve using a tiny camera and surgical tools to assess, clean, and repair damaged tissues in the joint. They can be used to treat tissue damage due to inflammation or injury.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary if other treatments have failed. This could include removing damaged cartilage, repairing ligaments, or reconstructing the jaw joint.
The Neuragenex Protocol For Managing Pain Induced By Jaw Locking
Our Neuragenex protocol involves a Neurofunctional Pain Management approach to treat jaw pain. This approach is based on the principle that our neuromuscular system plays an important role in causing and maintaining pain. By addressing this root cause, we can effectively manage and reduce the symptoms of jaw-locking pain.
The Neuragenex protocol utilizes a whole-person approach to pain management that involves a combination of safe and effective treatment modalities, all of which are non-invasive, non-surgical, and drug-free. They include:
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Start Managing Your Pain Effectively
At Neuragenex, we understand the importance of addressing pain at its source. That’s why the Neurofunctional Pain Management approach is so effective in reducing jaw-locking pain and restoring the health of your jaw joint. So, if you’re experiencing jaw locking or other chronic pain due to a condition like TMJ dysfunction, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis, contact Neuragenex today. Our team will work with you to develop a personal treatment plan to help you manage your pain and get back to living life the way you want.
Restore your jaw health and find relief from jaw locking