Facts about the jaw

When people think of physiotherapy, they often think of things like back pain, hip pain or knee pain. Granted, these are the top three most common areas that we treat, but we can confidently assess and treat the whole body. Most people don’t often associate physiotherapy with jaw pain, but this too is another area that we can confidently assess and treat. The jaw is a complex structure so I thought I would provide you with a few interesting facts about jaw pain.

Its more common than you think

Studies estimate that somewhere between 5% to 12% of the population experience some form of jaw pain. It tends to be more common in women than men. It tends to be more common between the ages of 20 to 40 years old.

The only double-hinged joint

We have numerous hinge joints throughout our bodies (knees and elbows for example) but the jaw is the only one that crosses both sides of the body. This makes the jaw perfect for what it needs to do, but it can occasionally cause problems. If people are prone to chewing food on one side of their mouth or if they have an uneven bite it can lead to asymmetries and contribute towards issues with the jaw.

One of the busiest joints

Since the human jaw is used to help with speaking, eating and breathing, it is undeniably one of the busiest joints in the whole body. It has been reported that the average person moves their jaw between 2000 to 3000 times a day, but this could be significantly higher for some people. Because they are so busy, our jaw muscles are a lot stronger than you would think. Some studies estimate the average human bite force to be around 160 pounds per square inch.

The jaw can cause pain in other areas

When certain structures in the body become irritated, they can cause pain or discomfort in other areas of the body. The example that most people are familiar with would be left arm pain being a sign of a heart attack. This is often called “referred pain”. Occasionally, patients come into our clinic with knee pain and wonder why I am assessing their hip, only to find that their hip is the cause of their knee pain. There are lots of structures throughout the body that can refer pain to other areas and the jaw is no exception. Issues with the jaw have been known to refer pain into the head and neck. In some cases, it can even cause tinnitus or symptoms similar to sinus pain.

Stress and anxiety

Most people are already aware that stress can have a huge impact on our health in many different ways. There is a link between high levels of stress and bruxism (teeth grinding). People who grind their teeth are much more likely to experience jaw pain. Another way that stress can contribute towards jaw pain is through increased muscle tension. People often say to me “I hold my tension in my shoulders”, but this can also be true for the muscles of the jaw.

I hope you have found this information interesting. If you are suffering jaw pain, please call to book an appointment on 01276 37670 or click the button below to book online.

Dom Walcott (BSc MCSP SRP)

Clinical Lead at Thorpes Physiotherapy