Runners can experience jaw pain due to sinus problems, poor posture and inefficient running gait. Blocked coronary arteries may also contribute to jaw pain. According to Dr. Shahram Sayedna, associate professor of dentistry at the University of Southern California, exercise-induced jaw pain is different from chronic pain due to cavities, gum disease and tooth infections. The good news, says Sayedna, is "many exercise-related jaw pain symptoms can be resolved with adjustments to running stride and posture."
Nerves of the Head, Including the Jaw
The nerves that cause pain sensation in the jaw are the trigeminal and facial nerves. They originate in the cervical vertebrae to enervate the muscles of the jaw. Depending on gait and neck posture, you may clench your teeth and flex the jaw while running. Another nerve mechanism involves inner ear equilibrium to prevent nausea, which can also cause the runner to adopt a stiff-necked posture that results in pain.
Keep Your Sinuses Clear While Running
Swollen sinuses can cause pain as they press on the nerves that pass through the facial canal on the way to the jaw muscles. This is known as referred pain — originating in one location but felt in another. Sinus pain is common during a cold, allergy season or exercising outdoors in damp, cold weather. Using a decongestant or sinus rinse often helps because the sinus tissues shrink with this treatment and release pressure on the nerves.
Staying flexible and keeping a strong core are important for runners, because poor running posture definitely is a cause of jaw pain, the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia explains. Weak lower back and abdominal muscles may mean diaphragm inefficiency, resulting in the runner trying to get more breath in by holding the neck and shoulders rigid during a stride. Over longer distances, this contributes to running gait problems in addition to jaw pain. Weight training incorporating core strength training should alleviate this kind of jaw pain while running.
Heart Problems and Jaw Pain
If you are running and experience nausea, clammy skin and jaw pain, how do you differentiate that from the stress of exercise? Radiating pain in the arm and jaw is a symptom of heart problems like blocked arteries. Everyone can have a bad exercise session due to illness or fatigue, but if these symptoms occur every time you exercise, you need to see your doctor immediately.
- MedlinePlus: TMJ Disorders
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Angina Pectoris
- Dr. Shahram Sayedna, D.D.S.; Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California; Los Angeles, California