What are the causes and remedies for lockjaw?

Symptom Database

Lockjaw, also known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder), is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. It can cause jaw pain, jaw stiffness, and difficulty in opening or closing the mouth. Understanding the causes and remedies for lockjaw is crucial for managing and treating this condition effectively.

Causes of Lockjaw

Lockjaw can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Bruxism: Teeth grinding or clenching can put excessive pressure on the jaw joint, leading to lockjaw.
  • Stress: Emotional or psychological stress can contribute to muscle tension and jaw clenching, resulting in lockjaw.
  • Malocclusion: Misalignment of the teeth or jaw can put strain on the temporomandibular joint, causing lockjaw.
  • Injury: Trauma to the jaw or face, such as a blow or accident, can damage the joint and lead to lockjaw.
  • Arthritis: Certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, can affect the temporomandibular joint and cause lockjaw.

Symptoms of Lockjaw

The symptoms of lockjaw may vary from person to person, but commonly include:

  • Jaw pain or tenderness
  • Jaw stiffness or difficulty in opening or closing the mouth
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint
  • Headaches or earaches
  • Facial pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty chewing or biting

Treatment for Lockjaw

When it comes to treating lockjaw, there are several options available:

1. Self-Care and Lifestyle Changes

Simple self-care measures and lifestyle changes can often alleviate lockjaw symptoms. These include:

  • Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area
  • Eating soft foods and avoiding hard or chewy foods
  • Avoiding excessive jaw movements, such as yawning or singing loudly
  • Practicing stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or meditation

2. Medications

In some cases, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with lockjaw. Muscle relaxants may also be prescribed by a healthcare professional to relax the jaw muscles and alleviate symptoms.

3. Dental Treatments

If malocclusion or teeth grinding is contributing to lockjaw, dental treatments may be recommended. These can include orthodontic treatment to correct misalignment or the use of a mouthguard to prevent teeth grinding during sleep.

4. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy techniques, such as jaw exercises and stretches, can help improve jaw mobility and reduce lockjaw symptoms. A physical therapist can provide guidance on specific exercises and techniques tailored to individual needs.

5. Injections

In some cases, injections of corticosteroids or botulinum toxin (Botox) may be used to reduce pain and muscle tension in the jaw joint. These injections are typically administered by a healthcare professional.

Prevention of Lockjaw

While lockjaw may not always be preventable, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  • Avoid excessive jaw movements or habits, such as chewing gum or biting nails
  • Practice stress management techniques to reduce muscle tension
  • Maintain good posture and avoid slouching
  • Use proper ergonomics when working or using electronic devices to minimize strain on the neck and jaw
  • Seek prompt treatment for any jaw or facial injuries

By incorporating these preventive measures into daily life, the likelihood of experiencing lockjaw can be minimized.


Lockjaw, or temporomandibular joint disorder, can cause significant discomfort and impact daily life. Understanding the causes and remedies for lockjaw is essential for effective management and treatment. By implementing self-care measures, seeking appropriate medical interventions, and adopting preventive strategies, individuals can alleviate symptoms, improve jaw mobility, and enhance overall quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment