Our jaws have the ability to open and close, which allows us to speak, eat and yawn. But when damage occurs to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – the joint that connects the jaw – our ability to perform these functions diminishes, hence the term “lock jaw.” The jaw becomes locked not allowing for full range of motion making normal tasks quite difficult. (The umbrella term for issues with this joint is called temporomandibular disorder, or TMD.)
Picture a door hinge that moves to allow the door to open fully and close shut. When the door hinge is working correctly the door moves freely, if it becomes rusted or damaged, the door may no longer open to its full capacity.
There are many causes for TMJ which include:
Symptoms of TMJ include:
If TMJ is mild it can easily be managed without the use of surgery. Identifying the cause of your TMJ is the first step. For example, if you grind your teeth or clench them you can opt for a mouth guard while sleeping to prevent that from occurring.
To aid in the pain associated to TMJ, over-the-counter pain relievers and muscle relaxants can help as well.
Lifestyle and home remedies include avoiding the overuse of the jaw. Ensure you are not hyper extending your jaw when yawning or chewing. A doctor or physical therapist may recommend exercises that can help strengthen the jaw. Oftentimes, applying cold and heat compresses can help to alleviate pain.
If natural remedies don’t help with TMJ, surgery may be required.