Have you ever experienced neck or jaw pain, headaches or aching through your teeth? If you are dealing with increased stress at work or home you may notice some of these symptoms correlating.
Our bodies cope with stress in many different ways. Even though we tend to think of stress as just an emotion, it manifests physically by increasing our heart rate and muscle tension gearing our bodies up for our fight or flight reflex.
If you wake up with the above symptoms, you may be expressing your stress through grinding your teeth or bruxism. This is incredibly common and can lead to pretty painful conditions like what I was unfortunate enough to experience over the last few weeks. We have muscles everywhere. Muscles like our biceps and hamstrings are well known which is why we can easily understand when we have issues in those areas. The group of muscles that allow us to move our jaw to chew, swallow and talk, known as the muscles of mastication, are not as commonly discussed so sometimes when we have pain in the jaw, temples or neck we tend to think of dental issues or random headaches as the source of the pain.
The muscles of mastication can be quite temperamental and while muscular spasms of the shoulder and low back muscles are common, spasms of the jaw muscles can be difficult and painful to treat. Similar to the squishy discs in our spine, we have a little disc on either side of our jaw where it meets the skull. This disc allows our jaws to slide open smoothly and painlessly as we talk or chew. In my case, the lateral pterygoid muscle had been spasmed and shortened for a long time which actually pulled the disc in my jaw into a semi-dislocated position, limiting my jaw movement to only a few cms.
If any of these symptoms or causes sound familiar to you it might be time for a visit to your chiropractor!