An Osteopathic Approach to the Jaw

An Osteopathic Approach to the Jaw

Carl Teychené-Coutet, DOMP

During your lunch or when you yawn, do you feel discomfort in your jaw, a little ‘click’ when you open or close your mouth?  And does that pass, but after few days is still there and it’s worse? It’s maybe Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome.

What causes TMJ syndrome?

  • Muscle Spasm (jaw clenching, teeth grinding)
  • Psychological stress
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (arthritis within the joint)
  • Damage to teeth causing tooth loss or misalignment of the bite
  • Motor vehicle accident injuries (like whiplash)
  • Trauma
  • ENT disorders

Symptoms of TMJ

  • Pain and tenderness on palpation in the muscles of mastication (chewing)
  • Pain and tenderness on palpation of the joint itself
  • Limited range of mandibular movement
  • Clicking and popping when you open/close your mouth
  • Pain when yawning, chewing or biting

You can have other symptoms not related to this area:

  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain

An Osteopathic Approach

An osteopathic approach includes the evaluation and potentially, treatment of, the whole body. During the session your osteopath will focus on finding areas of your body (head, neck, back and shoulders) that affect your jaw. This work is important because if your osteopath takes care of only your jaw, the tension around, whether the cause or the consequence, will cause other pain.

Your osteopath has a few gentle techniques to release soft tissues, including the muscles, ligaments and fascia around your jaw. We never use adjustments to crack a jaw, just because it's not necessarily useful, even if your jaw is totally blocked. The goal is to work on the joint itself and mainly on your meniscus (a disc in the jaw joint) to relax and soften it. There is also a lot of work that can be done on the skull.

Collaboration with others therapists can be helpful too. Your osteopath will be able to refer you to a specialist, should there be further assistance required (for example GP or a dental/TMJ specialist).

How many sessions does it take? Your osteopath will be able to answer this question more precisely after having seen you in consultation. Indeed, the number of sessions you will need will depend entirely on the condition of your jaw joint.

What can you do yourself ?

Heat may help relax muscles in spasm. Place a heat pack under your neck for 10-30 minutes and relax. Perform this 2-3 times per day.

Self massage and stretching for the jaw, and related structures (head, neck & back) can be helpful.

Meditation is helpful for stress reduction

Carl Teychené-Coutet is a Manual Osteopathic Practitioner in Ottawa. He has a practice at  Restore Chiropractic in Westboro, and another downtown at Ottawa Holistic Wellness. You can learn more about osteopathy on his website