Jaw tension is often an indicator of physical or emotional stress. Ongoing tension in the jaw can cause chronic pain and illness throughout the body. Here are some effective ways to ease jaw tension and relax tense jaw muscles.
Causes of Jaw Tension
Common causes of tension in the jaw(s) may include:
- poor posture
- pinched nerve in the neck
- underlying physical disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis or bone disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder, TMJ disorder or other anxiety condition
Ongoing or past traumatic stress can manifest as tension in the jaw. TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are types of anxiety disorders manifesting both physical and emotional symptoms. They can occur separately, but often appear together, with TMJ disorder occurring as a symptom of PTSD.
- TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorder: Easy Self-Test for TMJ
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD or C-PTSD): Symptoms and Treatment
Major Muscles Affected in Jaw Tension
The masseter muscle is a primary culprit in jaw clenching or tension in the jaw. This big facial muscle runs from the cheekbone down over the jawbone. Two other major muscles of mastication, the lateral and medial pterygoids, lie beneath the masseter. Another muscle instrumental in jaw tension is the temporalis muscle at the temple and sides of the head.
Other muscles strongly affected in jaw tension are the neck muscles, including the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid (SCM), and the scalenes and levator muscles at the sides of the the neck and throat.
How to Relax the Jaw and Relieve Jaw Tension
1. Breathing and Posture
Improper breathing is one of the major causes of jaw muscle tension. Breathe deeply and steadily, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Don’t hold your breath. Poor breathing habits can develop over a period of time, becoming increasingly worse.
Habits such as shallow breathing and holding the breath are usually subconscious. See also: Healthy Breathing: How To Break Bad Breathing Habits.
Poor posture is another main cause of jaw tension, especially if the head is thrust forward. If posture is unbalanced, it affects breathing, and vice versa. In correct posture, your ears should be roughly aligned with the slope of your shoulders. Your shoulders should be relaxed, pelvis tucked in slightly, and your weight should be toward the back of the foot. Next Page