JAMSS is the acronym for Jaw And Muscle Sprain/Strain. A jaw strain occurs when the fibers of the muscles in the jaw are torn or wear thin. A sprain happens when the ligaments in the jaw are stretched too far. The severity of the injury depends on how many of the fibers of the muscles or ligaments are torn or damaged.
What causes JAMSS?
JAMSS can happen as a result of trauma to the face. Being hit in the face or being involved in an accident where you have experienced a head injury, can lead to pain in the TMJ. Prolonged dental and mouth-related surgical procedures or emergency intubation can also sometimes cause strain. Anything, where your mouth is forced open or is open for a sustained period, may cause some damage to the muscles and ligaments. If your diet has a lot of hard or chewy foods, you may be putting a strain on your jaw. Teeth-grinding is another culprit, but damage can even occur due to yawning too widely!
Like all muscles in your body, repeated strain, or putting too much pressure on them can cause pain and damage. The fact that such injuries can happen from something as simple as a yawn indicates that many people will be affected by jaw pain at some time in their lives.
If you have been experiencing pain in your jaw, you might begin to wonder if you have something seriously wrong. One way to find out is to visit your doctor and get a diagnosis as quickly as possible. While it is possible that you are suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) and may be facing long-term pain and discomfort, there is also a good chance that you might simply have a Jaw And Muscle Sprain/Strain (JAMSS).
Self-diagnosing might be an appropriate first option as you do not necessarily need a Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) specialist to differentiate between JAMSS and TMJ Dysfunction. Think about it. If you twisted your ankle, would you go to an orthopedic surgeon? Or might you first try some at-home remedies? Perhaps wrapping your ankle with an elastic bandage and applying ice? Spraining your ankle does not mean you have a life-long ‘ankle disorder’. Similarly, a JAMSS injury does not arbitrarily lead to a TMD diagnosis or require a TMJ Specialist.
A JAMSS injury is less costly to treat and unlikely to require long-term treatment. Patients with TMJ disorders, on the other hand, may face spending thousands of dollars on occlusal adjustments, splint therapy, or full-mouth reconstruction.
While initially no less painful or worrying than TMD, JAMSS is generally only a short-term issue that often fully resolves. When you first experience JAMSS, you might worry that it could evolve into a bigger TMJ problem, but think of the times when you rolled your ankle, and it turned out to be a sprain rather than a break or something more long-term. Similarly, a JAMSSinjury, even if it is due to an acute injury, does not have to result in lifelong issues such as TMD. Isn’t that a relief?
Signs and Symptoms of JAMSS?
Symptoms such as stiffness, pain, and tenderness in your face and jaw region, a sore neck, earache, headache, and occasionally a clicking noise or jaw-locking sensation, can all be indicators that you have JAMSS. Some people become aware of a change in the functioning of the jaw, while others may feel muscle pain or tenderness in the area.
Again, just like when you hurt your ankle, getting diagnosed and treated promptly is crucial. Early diagnosis and intervention can prevent further injury, delayed recovery, or leave you with life-long jaw issues. Sometimes, particularly if the damage is left untreated, there may be a long-term weakness that may cause occasional flare-ups of pain or lead to chronic pain. Early treatment will lessen the likelihood of ongoing issues. And anyway, why would you want to live in pain and discomfort when there are treatments available?
How do I manage JAMSS pain?
An acute injury to the jaw can be managed similarly to an ankle sprain: rest, ice, compress with a support bandage or wrap, and elevate (RICE) or taking the strain off like using crutches on your ankle to minimize weight-bearing activities.
Additionally, if you sprain your ankle, you wouldn’t wait for an excessive amount of time before implementing these strategies, or they could, indeed, cause permanent damage to the muscles, ligaments, or joints. As soon as you injure your ankle, you try to alleviate the pain as quickly as possible by not putting weight on it and following the known pain-relief practices.
When it comes to your jaw pain, it’s a little different as you still need to use your TMJ to eat, talk and yawn, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t rest and help it to recover. Use the HEALS (Hot/Cold, Exercise, Analgesia, Lifestyle, Stress/Strain ) protocol as the first line of treatment.
If the strain or sprain is intense, heat or ice applications might be applied. Exercises are useful to help stop the jaw from seizing up altogether while analgesia (painkillers) helps to ease the discomfort. Simple mouth exercises such as relaxing your jaw, chin tucks, and goldfish-like movements will all help to relieve the strain on your muscles. Depending on the levels of pain, over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help.
Treatment wise, you may consider using a temporary splint, worn at night, to prevent further damage being done to the jaw during sleep. The bite splint helps the jaw to relax and prevents teeth-grinding, which will aggravate the injury. Your dentist will fit you with the splint and show you how to use it so that you can get some comfortable sleep at night.
To remove the risk of re-injuring your jaw, your bite may be examined, and if needed, retraining of chewing habits and prevention of teeth grinding may become part of your treatment plan. These self-care treatments are generally unobtrusive, inexpensive, and highly effective. With 85% of patients having successful outcomes, there is hope for anyone suffering from JAMSS.
What if the symptoms come back?
What would you do if your ankle became tender again after you successfully recovered from your sprain? You would be gentle with it and perhaps repeat what worked before. You would start the gentle exercises you had done before; you would rest it as much as possible and wear your support bandage as needed.
It is the same with JAMSS. If you feel the niggle of pain returning to your jaw, practicing the HEALS self-care measures prescribed during your original treatment may be enough to head off the pain before it takes hold. Using your splint at night and taking some antiinflammatories can all combine to help prevent the niggle from turning into a nightmare. Return to eating soft foods such as mashed potatoes, rice, soups, and yogurts, etc., to aid your recovery. Likewise, it’s advised to avoid hard foods like raw carrots, apples, and chewy meats until you are fully healed.
Taking care of your TMJ is vital if you want to live a life free of jaw pain. Therefore, the key to avoiding extended suffering from JAMSSTM is to see your doctor as soon as you can to ensure quick intervention and an effective home healing treatment plan to put you on the road to recovery as fast as possible.
To find a suitable doctor or TMJ specialist in your area, visit FaceMyPain and let us help you find your partner in JAMSS relief to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Julia Worrall is a Registered Nurse with decades of experience in acute care. Noticing that early intervention is lacking when it comes to head, neck, and jaw pain, Julia determined to bridge the knowledge gap between multidisciplinary providers and ensure that patients receive appropriate care to avoid delayed recovery, chronic pain, and polypharmacy scenarios. Julia is a published author and highly sought after international lecturer.