Arthritis-Related Jaw Pain? 5 Ways to Beat It

When we think of arthritis, we often think of it affecting the larger joints, such as the knees or hips, or obvious places such as the hands and fingers. And while those are common "hot spots" for the condition, did you know it can also affect your jaw?

While the jaw may not seem like a likely place to experience arthritis pain, it can and does happen. Osteoarthritis, or wear and tear of the joints, may occur in the jaw. Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition, may manifest itself in the jaw. In medical circles, this kind of jaw pain is known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. The temporomandibular joints are located in front of each ear where the jawbone meets the skull. What happens when your TMJ is inflamed is that you have trouble opening and closing your lower jaw, moving it from side to side, or rotating it in circles. This can translate into difficulty eating, speaking, and even swallowing. And besides pain, you may experience popping or grinding noises when you try to move your jaw.

While not all TMJ syndrome is caused by arthritis, it can lead to osteoarthritis if it's not treated. And it's important to treat any kind of pain in the jaw not only to relieve discomfort but because a jaw that's inflamed for too long may end up with deformities. What can you do to quell the pain?

  • Anti-inflammatories. Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications are a great first start.
  • Heat. Hot compresses on the jaw may offer relief.
  • Reduce stress. Stress can make you clench your jaw, worsening the situation. Meditate, do yoga, take a hot bath-whatever you can do to feel more relaxed.
  • Physical therapy. A skilled physical therapist can teach TMJ syndrome sufferers how to properly move and strengthen their jaw muscles.
  • Surgery. As a last resort, you might consider surgery. Always speak to your doctor about exploring other options first.


University of California, San Diego,

Arthritis Foundation,