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Why Does My Jaw Hurt After Running?

Even as the popularity of running continues to surge, this high-impact exercise often raises questions about its potential adverse effects. From the runner's knee to shin splints, several conditions are associated with this activity.

However, an often overlooked or misunderstood condition is the occurrence of jaw pain after running. The question many runners have is: why does my jaw hurt after running?

Published: May 18, 2023.

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Little Bit About Running

Running is one of the most accessible forms of aerobic exercise, celebrated for its vast benefits. It's a universal sport loved by millions worldwide for the simplicity of its execution and the minimal equipment required. From improving cardiovascular health to boosting mood and aiding weight management, the allure of running is undeniable.

Whether one opts to run on a treadmill indoors, brave the track, explore the trails, or challenge themselves with uphill runs, each setting presents unique benefits and challenges.

For instance, treadmill running provides a controlled environment with the capacity to adjust speed, incline, and other parameters as per the individual's preference. Track running, on the other hand, offers a flatter, smoother surface ideal for speed work or intervals, while trail running brings you close to nature, introducing unpredictable terrain that enhances balance and coordination.

Uphill running is an intense form of workout that offers increased calorie burn and improved muscle tone.

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Painful Jaws After Running

Experiencing jaw pain post-run might seem unusual. After all, running primarily targets lower body muscles, so it may be perplexing when an area seemingly unrelated, like the jaw, starts causing discomfort.

However, it is a relatively common phenomenon, and the explanations vary.

Firstly, tension could be the primary culprit behind your jaw pain. When running, particularly in challenging conditions like uphill or off-road, individuals tend to clench their jaws unconsciously as a reaction to exertion or stress.

This strain can manifest as jaw soreness or even a headache post-run. The solution can be as simple as becoming more aware of this tendency and consciously relaxing the jaw and facial muscles while running.

Secondly, improper breathing techniques may contribute to jaw pain after running. Breathing properly while running involves inhaling and exhaling mainly through the mouth, with the jaw in a relaxed state.

If a runner breathes through clenched teeth, it can put undue stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), leading to discomfort or pain in the jaw.

Furthermore, poor posture during running could also be a contributing factor. Slumping or hunching over can lead to misalignment in the body's kinetic chain, affecting not only the back and neck but also the jaw, especially during high-impact activities like running.

Hence, maintaining an upright and relaxed posture is critical.

Also, having uncomfortable running shoes may lead to bad posture and lead to jaw pain, as well as discomfort in ankles, knees, hips, back, etc. While many people use "old" running shoes (because they are "not good for anything else"), it is highly recommended to have dedicated running shoes in good condition that are comfortable and easy to wear.

Lastly, in rare cases, jaw pain might signal an underlying cardiovascular issue. The jaw pain could be a manifestation of angina, where pain radiates to the jaw due to insufficient blood flow to the heart.

This is less common, but if your jaw pain is accompanied by chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or it persists even after implementing better running practices, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

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Few Final Words

Running, a cherished form of exercise, should ideally be a pain-free and enjoyable activity. Nevertheless, it's not uncommon for runners to experience the unexpected side-effect of jaw pain.

Whether you're powering through miles on a treadmill, pacing on a track, navigating a trail, or pushing uphill, being mindful of potential issues like jaw tension, improper breathing, poor posture, and underlying health conditions can make all the difference.

Adopting awareness of your jaw tension, refining your breathing technique, correcting your posture, and paying attention to potential health red flags can alleviate the post-run jaw discomfort.

However, if your symptoms persist, it's always best to consult with a healthcare professional or a sports medicine expert. In the end, the key to enjoying running and reaping its full benefits lies not only in training and improving endurance but also in listening to your body's signals and addressing any discomfort or anomalies promptly.

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Maintaining overall body health and function is essential to achieve your running goals, regardless of the terrain or setting. No matter where you choose to run - be it on the winding trail, the leveled track, the adjustable treadmill, or the demanding uphill path - understanding how your body reacts to these situations is an integral part of your fitness journey.

Running can offer a feeling of freedom, provide a stress outlet, improve your health, and even offer a sense of community. However, it should never cause persistent pain or discomfort. Your body's signals, such as jaw pain after running, should not be ignored but rather seen as a call to action to assess and improve your running habits and overall health.

Whether it's adjusting your stride, loosening your jaw, or seeking medical advice, always remember that the goal of running is to build your strength, boost your health, and bring joy - it is not about enduring unnecessary pain. As with all aspects of health and fitness, balance and attentiveness are key to a successful and enjoyable running journey.

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