When you find yourself with a clicky jaw, it can be hard to know how to address it. Is it a job for your dentist? Will the GP be interested? Or could you start with your osteopath?

The role of posture in a clicky jaw

Often patients mention their clicky jaw during treatment for something else. Sometimes this is because they didn’t think it warranted its own appointment, other times it’s just that they didn’t know where to start.

What Causes a Clicky Jaw?

The jaw joint is basically a hinge joint with a disc of cartilage in the middle. Some muscles in the cheek attach to this disc, and if they get tight, they can pull the disc in a way that allows it to fold.

Clicky jaw anatomy

This folding is not permanent, and will likely only happen at a certain point in the movement. This might mean restriction in opening your mouth all the way, or a click when it’s open very wide.

When a clicky jaw is caused by this muscle pull, it can be really easy to manage. Sometimes just a few minutes of work will temporarily resolve it completely, although typically it will return if just treated once.

Management

As mentioned above, jaw symptoms might resolve quickly but temporarily after the first treatment. For this reason, your osteopath will devise a plan for a longer term benefit. This might include daily exercises to keep the muscles relaxed. There may be secondary effects into the neck and shoulders, or as far away as the diaphragm, so breathing exercises might be helpful too.

If the muscles are getting tight because of teeth grinding, we might need help from a third party. Your dentist may be able to provide you with a “splint” to limit night-time teeth grinding. If you grind your teeth because of anxiety, you might like a referral to a counsellor. We will not refer you onto anyone without your consent.

As always, osteopathy is holistic, and the jaw is no exception. The first diagram shows how holding your head forwards can cause tightening in the muscles that pull on the disc. In order to get to the root of the problem, your osteopath needs to help you fix this. Treatment around the neck and shoulders could be enough, or there might be room for improvement into your lower back too.

If you’re irritated by a clicky jaw, make an appointment today.