Body map Jaw pain

Jaw pain

Clenching or grinding? Painful jaw? Most patients may experience jaw pain relief with the right management.

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What can cause jaw pain?

Jaw pain is very common, affecting up to 60 to 70% of the population. Women are at least four times as likely to suffer from the disorder. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull on each side of the face. Problems can cause pain, abnormal jaw movements and joint noises.

Pain might be caused by muscle tightness or weakness, mobility problems in the jaw or upper spine. Your osteopath will ask you about your lifestyle, medications, activities to find out more about your pain,  and will examine your jaw and surrounding areas, often using their hands to feel for any problems. Your jaw pain may be related to other issues, such as headaches or earaches.

Patient resources

Your osteopath may show you some stretches, massages and exercises that might help you with pain relief. Depending on how severe the pain is, you may also need to use warm compresses over the painful areas or eat soft food until things calm down. You may also need to avoid opening your mouth too wide and clenching your jaw. Sometimes a mouthguard is useful to prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding while you sleep.

As everyone’s problem can be slightly different, your osteopath will know what is best for you.

What the evidence says

Clinical evidence supports the use of therapies used by osteopaths for jaw disorders.

  • Needling around the jaw may reduce pain for adults with jaw joint disorders (Boyles et al 2015).
  • Needling, clinical jaw exercises and positioning advice may relieve pain for adults with jaw joint disorders. Further research is needed to understand how long lasting pain relief is after treatment (List & Axelsson 2010).
  • Manual therapy and clinical exercises for the jaw may relieve pain for adults with jaw joint disorders not caused by serious health condition (Medlicott & Harris 2006).
  • Manual therapy and clinical jaw exercises may relieve pain and improve jaw movement for adults with jaw joint disorders not caused by a serious health condition (McNeely et al 2006).


Boyles, R., et al ‘Effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for multiple body regions: a systematic review’, J Man Manip Ther (2015); 23 (5)

List, T., & Axelsson, S., ‘Management of TMD: evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses’, Journal of Oral Rehabilitation (2010) May; 37(6)

Medlicott, M., & Harris, R., ‘A systematic review of the effectiveness of exercise, manual therapy, electrotherapy, relaxation training, and biofeedback in the management of Temporomandibular Disorder’, Physical Therapy (2006); 86 (7)

McNeely, M., et al ‘A systematic review of the effectiveness of physical therapy interventions for temporomandibular disorders’, Physical Therapy (2006); 86 (5)

Page references:

  • Gauer RL, Semidey MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician 2015;91(6):378–86.
  • Sharma S, Gupta DS, Pal US, Jurel SK. Etiological factors of temporomandibular joint disorders. Natl J Maxillofac Surg 2011;2(2):116–19. doi: 10.4103/0975-5950.94463.
  • Indresano A, Alpha C. Nonsurgical management of temporomandibular joint disorders. In: Fonseca RJ, Marciani RD, Turvey TA, editors. Oral and maxillofacial surgery. 2nd edn. St. Louis, MO: Saunders/Elsevier, 2009; p. 881–97.
  • Lomas J et al. 2021. Temporomandibular dysfunction. AJGP Vol 47 Issue 4
  • Health Direct: