Osteopathy for Jaw Pain

Written by Stephen Sacks – Medically reviewed by Stephen Sacks – Last updated June 3, 2024

Consider yourself lucky if the phrase ‘suffering from TMD in the TMJ’ means absolutely nothing to you! Those who have experienced temporomandibular disorder (hereafter TMD) in their temporomandibular joint (hereafter TMJ) will tell you of jaw pain that can change the way you live your day-to-day life: avoiding some chewier foods they used to enjoy, constant and nagging ear- and headaches, and being conscious of opening your mouth more than a few millimetres for fear of blinding stabs of pain throughout the face and head.

The TMJ, also called the mandibular joint, is where the jawbone connects to the skull. This sliding joint and its bones, muscles, and cartilage are susceptible to injury and inflammation, leading to a TMD. Arthritis and bruxism (uncontrollable grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw) also contribute to the development of TMDs. You can think of the relationship between TMJ and TMD as the relationship between ‘knee’ and ‘knee problems’. 

The one silver lining to TMD is that it’s usually temporary and can be treated in a variety of non-invasive ways, including self-managed care at home. Osteopaths, in particular, have a good reputation for providing immediately-effective treatment for jaw pain. Soft tissue massages, working through movement restrictions, and even acupuncture can help bring immediate relief from TMD, allowing you to eat, talk, and smile without fear of pain or discomfort. 

Osteopathy provides effective treatment for TMD caused by:

  • Jaw injuries or trauma
  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Jaw alignment or bite issues (malocclusion)
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Muscle fatigue or overuse
  • Connective tissue diseases affecting the temporomandibular joint
  • Stress and anxiety leading to jaw tension
  • Poor posture, particularly affecting the neck and shoulders

Please feel free to contact me in Harley Street or Highgate to discuss your jaw pain.

Understanding the jaw and jaw pain

“How does the TMJ work?”

The TMJ is one of the most complex joints in the body, as it needs to allow for a wide range of movements, including opening and closing the mouth, sliding and rotating the jaw in all directions, and allowing for a chewing motion. Your TMJs are located just in front of your ears, right at the intersection between the masseter and temporalis muscles, the parotid (salivatory) glands, and the cheekbone. 

The three main structural parts of the TMJ are the fossa, a depression in the skull where the mandible (jaw) fits; the disc, a fibrocartilaginous structure that acts as a cushion or shock absorber between the fossa and the end of the jaw bone, preventing them from rubbing against each other; and the condyle, the end of the jawbone that connects to the skull and is the primary moving part of the TMJ, allowing for the various movements of the jaw, including opening, closing, protrusion, retrusion, and lateral (side-to-side) movements.

“Why does my jaw hurt?”

In most cases, TMD is caused by one of many conditions that affect the TMJ; however, this is not always the case. TMD may also be caused by conditions in the masticatory muscles that surround the TMJ, resulting in pain and symptoms that can be difficult to distinguish from problems in the TMJ itself. 

When the pain originates in the masticatory muscle, it is usually the result of myalgia (generalised muscle pain), myositis (inflammation), contracture, or spasms. Tendonitis (tendon inflammation) of the tendon that connects the masticatory muscle to the jaw bone also presents as TMD. TMD originating in the fossa, disc, or condyle is usually caused by conditions like degenerative joint disease, systemic arthritides, separation of the bone and cartilage, osteonecrosis (bone death due to poor blood supply), abnormal bone- or tissue growth, or congenital and developmental disorders. 

In some cases, problems in other parts of the shoulders, throat, and neck may also present symptoms typical of TMD.

TMD, or jaw pain, can cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort when using the jaw to constant and extreme pain all hours of the day. Some of the more commonly reported symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain around your jaw, ear, and temple, usually on one side of the face.
  • Experiencing pain while chewing.
  • Difficulty or pain when fully opening your mouth.
  • Clicking, grinding, or popping sounds when moving your jaw.
  • Unexplained headaches.
  • Jaw locking in place when it’s open.
  • Swelling on the side of the face.

Finding effective treatment for jaw pain

Depending on the causes of your TMD, finding effective treatment for jaw pain isn’t difficult, and there are many specialists you could turn to. Unless you have suffered a traumatic injury that requires going under the knife, you could turn to a GP for analgesics to take the edge off the pain, osteopaths for soft tissue and home treatments, ENTs if you’re also suffering from ear pain, rheumatologists who specialise in dealing with joint disorders, and even neurologists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. 

Getting an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your TMD is more important than who you turn to. Ibuprofen and paracetamol will only get you so far, and since the root causes of TMD often include degenerative conditions like osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD), an early and accurate diagnosis can help you find effective treatment before you suffer irreversible damage to your jaw. Depending on the specialist you consult, a diagnosis could include a physical inspection, ultrasound, CT or CBTC scans, and other imaging technologies.

Looking for a Jaw Pain Osteopath in London?

Contact Dr. Stephen Sacks at 020 3865 9044 or through his online portal for an obligation-free discussion about your jaw pain and treatment options. 

Why choose an osteopath for TMD treatment?

In most cases, treating TMD isn’t exceptionally difficult. Unfortunately, diagnosing the exact causes of TMD can be a bit more tricky; poor posture, pinched nerves around the neck and shoulder, and tense upper back muscles can all cause pain in the TMJ. As soft tissue specialists who understand the intricacies of the interactions between different parts of the body, osteopaths are good at diagnosing and treating TMD. 

Osteopaths take a holistic approach to healing. They rely on Western imaging and medical technologies, often work alongside other specialists for comprehensive treatment, and leverage the power of proven alternative medicines such as acupuncture and dry needling to bring immediate pain relief, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation.

Stephen Sacks osteopathy for jaw pain

As an osteopath with a nearly two-decade-long history of helping people eat, smile, laugh, and talk with confidence and without fear of pain, I find it personally rewarding every time I see the amazement on my first-time patients’ faces. They simply can’t believe the level of comfort and relief that even a single session of soft tissue massage and jaw manipulation can bring. I’ve seen patients smile broadly and even laugh out loud for the first time in months, truly making this job rich and rewarding. 

I take great care to understand the exact causes of each patient’s TMD, using this to design effective personalised treatments and advise on simple and practical steps that you can take at home to stay pain-free. Although this varies from patient to patient, I typically recommend about six therapy sessions, after which we reevaluate based on your recovery and progress. 

I am confident that I can help improve your quality of life with targeted and effective osteopathic treatments for TMD and jaw pain. If you’re suffering from jaw pain and looking for affordable, accessible, and effective relief, please feel free to contact me at my Highgate or Harley Street practices or book a session online.

For more information on the causes, symptoms, and diagnostic processes for TMD, feel free to read our blog post on TMD and Jaw Pain.

For proven and effective jaw pain treatment, contact Dr. Stephen Sacks

Affordable, accessible, and effective osteopathic treatments with a holistic view of health and recovery.