It happens time and time again, your jaw pops or clicks! What is that and why does it keep happening?The temporomandibular joint (or TMJ for short) is the joint that opens and closes our mouth and moves it side to side. This is critical in talking and eating.

Woman who is experiencing pain after jaw clickingJaw Muscles

Like all joints, we have muscles that act on the TMJ to make it move:

  • Lateral pterygoid
  • Frontalis
  • Temporalis
  • Masseter

Clicking jaw: is this like cracking knuckles?

When these muscles become tight (such as with stress "clenching") they can pull on the jaw causing it to shift to the side instead of opening and closing smoothly. The disc of the joint dislocates out of place.; The pop you feel is different from the pop you feel in your fingers when you crack your knuckles. The joint is actually shifting out of alignment. If you put your fingers just under your ear, and then open/close the mouth you can feel it.

You probably notice some accompanying tenderness and pain with the clicking as well. That pain can make it difficult to eat/drink and talk. Sometimes the jaw may get "locked" and have difficulty opening or closing. Did you know physical therapists can treat your TMJ disorder? The muscles in the TMJ can contribute to disc movement and can be treated like any other area in our body.

Clicking jaw, now what?

Ideally, we would want to get you into our clinic for an assessment of the TMJ and the neck. We can evaluate the clicking further (like which direction it goes in), and how tight the different muscles are. Getting those muscles less tight is the first step in making your jaw feel better and decreasing the clicking.

How do we make the jaw muscles less tight?

Manual therapy is an excellent treatment comprised of various tricks and tools to help calm down that irritated muscle tissue. Our goal is always less pain and less clicking after treatment.

For other possible causes of TMJ Dysfunction, refer to our general blog You and Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

Physical therapy for jaw clicking in Baltimore, MD and Columbia, MD

If you have jaw clicking, it's time to come see us! Our specialized physical therapists can determine the cause of your clicking and help reduce it through conservative management. Contact our office today.

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