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Are you a clencher?

 By Jane McClurg 14th November 2017

Recently in the clinic I've been seeing quite a few people with pain in their jaw and many people mention to me that they either clench or grind their teeth at night.

Is this you?

This can contribute to tight and sore neck muscles as well and is often what people book in for a massage for then casually mention the grinding and headaches!


Do you suffer from any of the following?

  • Discomfort or pain in the muscles of the face, neck and shoulders
  • Clicking, grating or popping in the jaw
  • Clenching and grinding teeth and jaw
  • Pain or difficulty talking, chewing or yawning
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Earache or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Jaw deviation on opening or closing
  • Jaw locks open or shut
  • Painful teeth
  • Pressure or blocked sensation in the ears


These are all common signs and symptoms indicating dysfunction to the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint in front of the ear which allows us to speak, chew, swallow, kiss, and produce normal facial expressions. Problems to this joint are usually caused by injuries from whiplash, falls, trauma at birth, etc, but can also be due to stress and normal wear and tear. It is very common for the onset of symptoms to be delayed for months or years after an injury.

Clinical Treatment

Massage of the muscles of the head, face, neck, and shoulders can help alleviate these symptoms by releasing trigger points and muscle spasms that cause the jaw to function abnormally.
I have used dry needling very successfully for jaw pain; by using very fine needles inserted into the trigger points in the masseter muscle of the jaw. The relief can be instant for some people. Following up with massage and gentle stretching of the area can help.

I almost always recommend being check out by the Back in Action chiropractors as they can do amazing work with jaw dysfunction.


  • You can self massage the area too to get some relief. Start by rubbing near the joint (by the ear), small circles with your fingertips and not too much pressure. Then run your fingers down over the muscle and back up again a few times. When you find a sore spot press and hold until the pain dissipates.
    Open your mouth to stretch. Don't forget your temples too.

  • If you experience sharp pain apply an ice pack to the area, if it's more of a dull ache use heat.

  • Wear a mouth guard at night to help eliminate the clenching, consult your dentist or try an inexpensive sports mouth guard.

  • Avoid hard to chew foods for a while...give those muscles a rest!

  • Reduce stress...try meditation.

  • Try lavender essential oil for a restful nights sleep

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a frequently undiagnosed or misdiagnosed problem, but when identified and treated early, the improvement rate is remarkably high.  If left undiagnosed, however, and after the TMJ becomes chronic, the improvement rate drops drastically, and it is possible that you may remain with some permanent symptoms. Thus, early identification and treatment by a competent TMJ specialist is essential for your immediate and future well-being.


So please contact us today if you suffer from any of the above symptoms so we can restore Balance to your TMJ.


Werner, R. (2005) A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, Third Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

NZCM Handbook (2007) Clinical Therapeutics 4

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