How To Loosen Tight Jaw Muscles?
Do you feel tension or even pain in your jaw? Lately, I’ve been dealing with some jaw tension myself and I know that it’s nothing pleasant! In this post, I am going to share things and exercises that helped me. I promise that in 5 minutes, you will have at least one concrete step you can take right now to release tension from your jaw.
Tight Jaw Muscles
Why would a voice coach or speech-language pathologist talk about jaw tension? Because tension or even pain in these muscles can affect your voice. Tight jaw muscles can directly affect voice quality and contribute to voice straining. Or is it the other way around? Can vocal strain contribute to jaw tension? Or is there something else going on?
Causes of Tight jaw Muscles
There are many different causes of jaw tension. And it would make sense that the solution for your particular problem will depend on the cause of the pain or strain. Sometimes, it takes time to figure out the root cause of your tight jaw.
The most common causes of jaw tension are:
- teeth grinding or clenching
- misaligned teeth and improper bite
- misaligned head, neck or back posture
- excessive chewing for example gum chewing
- excessive jaw movements like jaw jutting
- inability to move the jaw and tongue independently of each other
- mouth breathing
- arthritis or other chronic disorders
Help for Tight Jaw Muscles
Different specialists can help with different causes. For example, if you have arthritis or a similar systemic chronic problem, speak to your rheumatologist.
If you have underbite, overbite or misaligned teeth in any other way, speak to your dentist to see if this is adding to jaw tension. Also, if you are grinding your teeth during the day or at night, speak to your dentist who can make you a night guard.
This was my case earlier this year. I never clenched my teeth before but due to a hugely stressful situation in my life, I subconsciously started to clench my teeth. So the cause of my jaw tension was stress that led to jaw clenching. Stress and trauma can be a trigger of jaw tightness and it usually starts subconsciously. It took me several weeks to realize what I was doing.
And only with the help of my dentist, I realized the cause of my tooth pain and jaw tension. I had a night guard made to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching at night and I added some massages and other exercises during the day, which I am going to share with you later in this video.
If you have a locked jaw, so when your jaw gets stuck in one position, if your jaw is clicking when you open and close your mouth, or if you have pain in this joint, talk to your dentist or your doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist who can help with TMJ disorder or temporomandibular joint disorder. These specific problems are usually caused by a dislocated disc that is inside the temporomandibular joint. Here in Canada, it may be a specialized dentist or chiropractor who can help with this problem. In your country, it may be someone else.
If you are experiencing vocal strain, tension or even pain when speaking, and you are ready to work towards a free, strong and confident voice, you can apply to our Vocal Freedom System coaching program. Click this link to learn more about this program.
5 Tips to Release Jaw Tension
Tip #1 Become aware
The absolute first step is to become aware of your jaw position and muscle work in this area throughout the day.
Tip #2 Improve your overall alignment
Observe your overall body alignment throughout the day and during vocal tasks. Are you hunched over a computer or smartphone all day long? Do you carry your head more forward? Where are your ears in relation to your shoulders? Your habitual body alignment during the day may be the cause of jaw tension.
Tip #3 Drop the jaw
Sometimes, the simplest exercises are the most effective. Watch this video for demonstrations.
Tip #4 Massage the Jaw Muscles
Start your day with a light massage for a few minutes. It can be as simple as warming up the masseter muscle (which is right here) with your fingers with circular motions. Watch the video for more information.
Tip #5 Move your jaw independently of the tongue
Very often, our jaw and tongue want to move together. And tension is created when too many muscles or structures work together unnecessarily. To separate the movements of tongue and jaw, do the exercise demonstrated in the video.