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Have you checked your jaw lately?

I recently dealt with an interesting case of a patient suffering from neck pain plus headaches on the forehead and sides.

When I did some simple mobility tests a restriction in the jaw joint (TMJ) was diagnosed and after some further questioning the patient told me he had bruxism (grinding teeth at night) and had to wear a mouthguard.

The patient had started a stressful job months prior and these symptoms all started around this time.

Restrictions in the jaw (Temporo-Mandibular Joint - TMJ) are often hidden and can stay undiagnosed for a long time.

Due to its situation and relation to neighbouring anatomy, it’s happy function is dependant on the smooth sharing of articulation and can be impeded by restrictions elsewhere.

The jaw receives its nerve supply from the first and second cervical vertebra in the neck.

Also leaving this area are nerves which can lead to frontal headaches, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and a host of other symptoms such as middle ear congestion.

There is a cartilage disc between the head of the jaw and the skull (the two halves of the jaw joint) that can be held in place by tension in the muscles that retract it in closing the jaw. If the jaw travels forward on opening but the disc does not this is usually the cause of a ‘clunky’ jaw. This in itself can be quite painful.

The jaw can never be seen as a separate joint, when treating it we must look at the neck mobility, shoulder mobility (and in some cases even the alignment of the pelvis).

In my patient with headaches, assessing and restoring the function of his jaw was the key to his improvement.

3 sessions were needed (pretty much concentrated on upper neck, specific jaw techniques - even in mouth ones - and shoulder muscles). No more were headaches reported, and a serious decrease in the night teeth grinding was welcomed as an extra "side-effect"!

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