Can’t eat your burger? TMJ pain – ouch!

Are you a person who has been unable to open your mouth for two weeks just because you ate a burger?

TMJ pain can cause a painful smile, painful yawn and even painful eating!

The treatment of TMJ pain, or TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction) can be approached many ways and it is important to understand some basic principles of the anatomy that may be involved in common TMJ issues.


From a very basic perspective, the jaw (made up of the mandible bone) has two attachments to the skull via the temporal bone on each side of your face, thus the name temporomandibular joint. There is a fibrocartilaginous disc that is between the mandibular condyle and temporal bone to improve joint movements. The TM joints have a complex 3D rotation, gliding and sliding motion.

These movement components are:

  • A sliding forward and backward movement
  • A gliding side movement
  • A rotation movement (opening)

These movements work together to create:

  • Jaw opening
  • Side movement (laterotrusion)
  • Protraction


Jaw opening/closing

Try opening your mouth, slowly and without tension.

The movements you are feeling are rotation happening at the TMJ and sliding which involves the relaxation of biting muscles and stabilising of others.

Side Movement

Move your chin to one side, again without force or tension.

The movements you are feeling are pivoting and rotation at the TMJ and a complex integration of muscle activity on both sides of the face.  These contractions are not overly forceful as this movement is mainly used in aspects chewing and facial expression.

Protraction (sliding) forward/backward

Slide your chin forwards without tension. Stop. Did you arch your neck?

This is very important in all functions of the mouth and jaw. Coordinated use of jaw muscles, involving again gentle movement with normal everyday use.

In Part 2 I will discuss common problems and restrictions and strategies to help.

If you’ve already realised you want some help,

please call us at Performance Medicine!

Let’s get you smiling again

03 9686 2373

Book An Appointment SS

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