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I was in an auto accident, why does my jaw hurt?!

I was in an auto accident, why does my jaw hurt?!

One in three people exposed to whiplash trauma is at risk of developing delayed TMJ Dysfunction symptoms that may require treatment, according to research published in the August 2007 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Pain is the most common TMJ dysfunction symptom. The pain is often described as a transient, dull ache in the jaw joint and nearby areas, including the ear. Instead of pain, some sufferers only have problems in the use of their jaws.

Additional symptoms of TMJ can include:

  • Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint
  • Inability to open the mouth comfortably
  • Locking of the jaw when attempting to open the mouth
  • Headaches
  • A bite that feels uncomfortable or “off”
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Tinnitus or ear pain
  • Dizziness
This is due to the shearing of the skull on the cervical vertebrae during impact.  Due to inertia, if your car has been rear-ended, your body moves forward, which includes your jaw, and your head remains in the same space.  This excess movement of the jaw will overstretch muscles and ligaments, which may result in muscle spasm and/or inflammation.  This may take days or weeks to come to full fruition so may be discounted as unrelated to the accident.
Massage can be a valuable treatment for relieving TMJ pain.  The application of ischemic pressure to trigger points in the jaw muscles (temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid, and medial pterygoid) can help relieve their spasms.  Using isometric contraction to actively stretch tensed muscle fibers, adding minimal resistance for a further stretch, followed by relaxation allows for enhanced relief of the targeted muscle. This technique can restore the range of motion that typically regresses with TMJ disorders.
In the end, jaw pain following an auto accident is not uncommon and can be relieved with minimally invasive techniques.  Give us a call with any questions you may have about current or past injuries.