Why Does my Jaw Hurt When I Run – Jaw Pain When Running Explained

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

If you’ve ever felt the unexpected twinge of jaw pain during a run, you’re not alone. While jaw pain isn’t your typical running woe, it can be a real head-scratcher (or jaw-clencher) when it strikes.

In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery of why your jaw might decide to join the running conversation and, more importantly, what you can do to ease the discomfort.

So, if you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my jaw hurt when I run?” and “What on earth do I do about it?” – stick around! We’ve got the answers you need to keep pounding the pavement pain-free.

Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Run?

Jaw pain is usually felt as pain around the ear, tenderness in the jaw, and inability to chew comfortably.

If you are suffering from this pain while running, any of the following causes could be the reason behind your condition.

Forward-Head Posture

You’re in your favorite slouched position—whether it’s during a run, at your desk, or binge-watching TV. What’s happening is that you’re unwittingly forcing your body into a less-than-ideal posture.

Your body operates like a well-oiled machine when everything is in its proper alignment—muscles, bones, and joints included. But when your head juts too far forward, it’s like throwing a wrench into the gears. Your neck muscles bear the brunt of this misalignment, leading to jaw pain.

And that’s not the end of the story. This jaw discomfort can also set the stage for debilitating headaches and migraines, putting a real damper on your performance.

The Fix?

It’s all about nipping that forward-head posture in the bud, whether you’re exercising or at your desk. Adjust your computer screen, and limit those downward glances at your phone. Here are some running-specific tips to help you maintain proper form:

Keep those shoulders relaxed, steering clear of hunching.

  • Maintain a steady gaze straight ahead, roughly 15 to 20 feet in front of you. Avoid the tempting glance at your feet unless you’re navigating tricky terrain.
  • Tuck in your chin, ensuring your neck and head align with your body.
  • Activate your core and keep your back in a neutral, upright position.
  • Let your arms hang loose, bent at a 90-degree angle, with a confident forward swing—no side-to-side swaying allowed.
  • So, let’s straighten things out and put jaw pain behind you. Your body will thank you, one pain-free run at a time

Additional resource – Chiropractor for runners

Jaw Clenching

Ever find yourself grinding your teeth—known as bruxism—either in your sleep or during a hard run? It’s a common habit, but it’s also a sneaky source of jaw pain.

Bruxism is like an uninvited guest that makes itself at home in your jaw. It happens when you unconsciously clench your teeth together, causing undue stress in the jaw, especially on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support it. Over time, this grinding action can create painful trigger points in your jaw muscles, particularly in the masseter and temporalis muscles.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Many runners are mouth breathers, and if you’ve already developed these trigger points, jaw pain can rear its head while you’re out on the track.

The Fix?

Start by paying close attention to your jaw, especially during stressful moments. Make a conscious effort to relax your jaw whenever you catch yourself clenching your teeth. During intense running, remember to keep the muscles of your face relaxed and loose, paying special attention to the position of your jaw.

But let’s not forget about addressing the underlying stress. Consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine, like deep breathing, meditation, stretching, and taking regular breaks.

And for those nighttime grinders, a nightguard might just be your ticket to a pain-free jaw come morning. So, let’s put the brakes on bruxism and keep your jaw running smoothly

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction

Yawning or chewing should be pain-free activities, right? But if you’re experiencing discomfort in these everyday motions, you might be dealing with a temperamental temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a condition where the jaw’s joints can be misaligned, injured, or simply not functioning as they should. The root cause? Often, it’s nerve damage along the temporomandibular joint, leading to pain in the jaw and the surrounding muscles. To make matters worse, TMJ can also spark headaches, migraines, and even back pain.

Here are some telltale signs that your jaw might be in the throes of TMJ:

  • Pain or discomfort during mealtime
  • Tenderness in and around your ear
  • Difficulty fully opening and closing your mouth
  • Lingering facial pain

Now, here’s where running enters the picture. The repetitive, high-impact nature of running can exacerbate TMJ symptoms, making your jaw more swollen and painful.

Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to Anterior Tibial Tendonitis 

The Fix?

First off, thermal therapy could be your ticket to relief. Research from the TMJA (Temporomandibular Joint Association) suggests that hot or cold therapy can work wonders in reducing TMJ symptoms. Cold therapy helps to curb swelling and pain, while heat promotes blood flow and loosens those tense jaw muscles. Apply your chosen therapy for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, ensuring you use a light layer between your skin and the compress.

Another option to explore is over-the-counter analgesics. These anti-inflammatory drugs may help soothe the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ.

If your TMJ stems from musculoskeletal issues, it might be time to seek out a physical therapist who specializes in jaw disorders. They can provide targeted exercises and guidance to help alleviate your symptoms.

Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to calf pain while running

Heart Problems

Jaw pain is not always innocuous, and sometimes, it might be a sign of more serious health problems, particularly concerning your heart. So, if you’re experiencing persistent jaw pain, it’s crucial not to brush it off, especially after trying the measures mentioned earlier.

One potential cause could be angina, a condition in which your heart doesn’t receive enough blood, leading to chest pain. Temporal arthritis is another condition that can cause jaw pain due to swelling in blood vessels, resulting in narrowing. Additionally, blocked arteries are a common cardiovascular issue that can manifest with jaw pain.

In more severe cases, jaw pain might be a symptom of a heart attack. Alongside jaw pain, classic signs of a heart attack include chest pain and left-sided arm pain.

The Fix?

If you suspect that your jaw pain is related to cardiovascular problems, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, do not hesitate—seek immediate medical attention. Every second counts when it comes to heart health, so act swiftly to protect yourself. Your well-being is worth it!

Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Run  – The Conclusion

There you have it

If you’re looking to uncover the cause of your jaw pain during exercise, then today’s post will get you started on the right foot. The rest is really up to you.

Please feel free to leave your questions and suggestions in the section below.

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