Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a medical condition wherein the temporomandibular joint of the jaw becomes misaligned and causes pain throughout the face, head, neck and even the back. Patients with the disorder often have trouble being diagnosed because of the range of symptoms – which, in addition to the aforementioned pain, can include tinnitus, clicking or popping of the jaw, teeth grinding (bruxism), migraine headaches, and muscle aches. But one symptom in particular is much more obviously related to TMJ disorder – and a lot harder to deal with.
Locked jaw is a symptom of TMJ disorder that causes the jaw to not close or open all the way due to stiffness. That stiffness can be caused by any number of things, including talking, chewing some foods, being hit in the jaw and even breathing. The bad news is most of those behaviors are pretty common – and pretty necessary in some cases (hello, eating and breathing!), so you can’t exactly ignore them. But the good news is that when lockjaw does occur, there are steps you can take to help unlock the jaw and ease the pain.
What to do if your jaw locks
- Don’t panic. It’s like those wicker finger puzzles you used to get as prizes at the arcade. The more you panic and struggle, the worse things will get and the harder it will be for you to unlock your jaw. Just try to breathe in and out in deep, cleansing breaths and move to step two.
- Apply a hot compress to both sides of the jaw to loosen the muscles that have become tense.
- If you cannot open and close your jaw, try moving it from side to side. This could help push it back into place and allow you to open and close it again.
- Call (or have someone else call) Dr. George and schedule an appointment to have your jaw checked out to either reset it or to make sure it has reset properly.
For any questions or concerns, please give Dr. George a call at 724-220-2347.