Have you ever woken up one morning with a pain in your jaw equivalent to what Chris Rock felt like after Will Smith clocked him in the kisser at the Academy Awards? If your answer is “yes” I’m sure you took to the trusty Google for possible causes. I was in this same boat recently waking up one morning with severe pain in the left side of my jaw.

For about a year now my jaw has started to pop occasionally while eating or yawning, but it has never escalated to the point of pain of this magnitude. I took to over the counter pain relivers and hoped the pain would subside on its own. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. So, when it got to the point that I couldn’t eat I knew it was time to see the doctor.

So, what is the fancy medical meaning of TMJ? Say this ten times fast: Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. According to the TMJ website:

Temporomandibular disorders, also commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD, are…characterized by pain in the jaw joint and surrounding tissues frequently associated with limitation in jaw movements. Recent finds show that TMJ is a complex multisystem condition involving the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, exocrine, immune, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, and the skeletal system.



Simply put, this stuff hurts. In my case, my symptoms included tight joints on both sides, a tingling sensation (like when you eat something sour), shooting pain up into my ear while eating and headaches. My doctor informed me that there are a number of things that can cause TMJ including grinding or clenching your teeth from things like stress, anxiety, or restless sleep.

TMJ is a very common disorder and is typically treated with prescription medication like anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers. My doctor also encouraged me to rest my jaw (meaning I need to shut my mouth for a change) and stretching it once a day. There are many exercises and at home remedies to help with pain management.


If you are experiencing this kind of jaw pain, my advice would be to make an appointment to see your doctor. That seems to be the only way I was able to find relief.

What is your experience with jaw pain and/or TMJ?

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