Anxiety is a hell of an emotion to have to live with. Not only does it stop you from doing many things that you know you would otherwise enjoy, but it can also seriously affect your body’s physiology.
The effects of anxiety can range from everything from irregular heartbeats to even irritable bowel syndrome.
Needless to say, it’s not a good time for those that are struggling with this common emotion.
However, there are more subtle, but still debilitating ways that anxiety can manifest.
For example, many people that suffer from high anxiety report that their heads and jaws hurt or feel sore, even after being seen by a doctor or dentist.
What’s causing this? How is it linked to anxiety, if it is at all? And, more importantly, how can you start to treat this pain?
Well, this guide is here to answer all of those questions and more for you. From the cause of the pain to solutions, everything that you could want to know can be found by scrolling down our guide!
Link Between Jaw Pain & Anxiety
So, let’s get the main question out of the way: How exactly can anxiety be linked to the pain that you might be feeling in your jaw?
Well, it’s all to do with how your body reacts to stress. As you are going through tough situations, whether physically or emotionally, a lot of people will unconsciously clench their jaw muscles closed.
Why the body does this exactly is a tough question to answer. It could be to stop your jaw from moving around aimlessly when focus is needed for a task, or simply the body locks up in moments of high stress.
This doesn’t present any problems in normal situations and life when you only occasionally clench your jaw.
However, in times of great stress or anxiety, people find that they lock or clench their jaw muscles much more often, especially over time.
And, like any other muscle that is overworked or part of the body put under a lot of stress, the muscles and body parts get tired, resulting in a sore, dull pain around the lower head and jaw.
Effects Over Time
Over time, this can cause the jaw to forget what its normal resting position is, which can affect a whole host of other issues, such as how you bite, talk, dental health, and a lot of other factors.
After all, constantly applying pressure to your jaws and teeth is only going to put more pressure on them.
This can lead to the wearing down of your tooth enamel, or, in moments of extreme stress after a long time, clenching so hard that serious damage is done to your teeth.
Needless to say, that’s something that most people will want to avoid!
Signs Of Jaw Pain/Discomfort
This might seem like a redundant question. After all, surely the clearest sign of jaw pain is that your jaw… well, hurts. Right?
This is true, but jaw pain is quite a late-stage issue to come up when clenching your jaw due to anxiety. There are a lot of earlier signs that you can pick up on if you know what you are looking for.
For example, you may find that harder or chewier foods, such as nuts, apples, or even chewing gum, can cause quite a lot of discomfort, even after only chewing on them for a short time.
Another example is that you may find that your jaw inexplicably locks or gets stuck in position when you aren’t expecting it.
Alternatively, your jaw clicking when you move is another common symptom that people report, long before they ever feel pain in their jaws.
How To Stop Anxiety-Related Jaw Pain
So, you know that you have this pain, and you know that you need to address it. But how, exactly?
Well, there are a few solutions that you could try for yourself.
Probably the most straightforward solution, and one that can be done at any time. Just doing some simple exercises to help move the jaw in new or soothing ways can help alleviate the immediate issue of jaw pain.
With your mouth closed, make a ‘brrrr’ sound, like one that you might expect a horse to make, and do so for a while, at least 30 to 40 seconds.
If you need to breathe, make sure to continue once you’ve refreshed your breath.
And that’s it! It’s really that simple! This exercise is intended to help loosen the tension in your jaw muscle, allowing them to stretch and apply less pressure to your head.
Ultimately, the best way to help stop anxiety-caused jaw pain is to be able to get a better grip on your anxiety.
Of course, this is far easier said than done, but there are a few strategies that you can try. Practising mindfulness and self-awareness of your body is great to help regulate how you react to that anxiety.
If, for example, you notice that you are clenching your jaw in a moment of anxiety, this can be an indication that you need to step away from the situation for a moment and practise a few breathing exercises to help reduce your stress levels (see also: Does Exercise Lower Estrogen Levels?)and unclench your jaw a little.
What If My Jaw Is Hurting On One Side Only?
Throughout this guide, when we have been discussing jaw pain, we are referring to when both sides or all of your jaw feel sore or painful. But what about when it is just one side of the jaw?
Well, this is less likely to be related to stress and both sides are affected. Clenching your jaw requires pressure from both points of articulation, so pain on one side is almost certainly caused by something else.
Make sure to consult with a doctor, dentist, or other health professional if this is the case. The pain is likely being caused by some other underlying dental or joint problem that needs addressing.
So, as you can see, there is a pretty clear link between stress and a sore jaw feeling.
But, with a little practice and some mindfulness, you’ll be able to spot the signs and help treat the issue.