The joint that connects your jaw to your skull is called the TMJ  which stands for Temporomandibular Joint.  The actual joint is located here… just a centimeter in front of your ear.  Now the TMJ is a unique joint in your body because of the way it moves.  Most joints like these two joints in my fingers are basically simple hinges: they have only one plane of motion, and they pivot around a fixed point.  The TMJ is different.  In the first part of opening your jaw, it pivots, but then the whole joint slides along the skull and it pivots some more.  The jaw also has some movement laterally – side to side. and remember that each side of the jaw can move independently. These complex motions allow the jaw to open wider than it otherwise would, but also leaves you more susceptible to injury.    There are a lot of different problems that can arise with improper movement of the TMJ, but mostly it all has to do with balance… making sure that the two sides are moving similarly, and that the muscles are not overly tight on one side compared to the other.
Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include: popping, clicking, tightness or soreness in the face, headaches and more.  Major problems with TMJ dysfunction will require a referral to a dentist or TMJ specialist, but minor dysfunction can often be corrected with some gentle stretches and possibly treatment with laser therapy.

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