A photo if a middle aged man running on sand

These days it seems like running has gained tremendously in popularity. And it’s not just that more people are running, it’s that more people are running longer and longer distances. Even Matthew Inman, the genius behind the blobular comic The Oatmeal, has become an ultramarathoner and written a book about running.

Unfortunately, with all this additional running, people many people are discovering a very negative effect: they experience jaw pain during their runs. There are many potential causes of jaw pain while running, and many of them require treatment. If you experience jaw pain while running, it’s important to talk to a doctor or dentist about it to make sure you are not putting yourself at serious risk.

Deadly: Blocked Arteries, Angina, and Other Heart Problems

Probably the most serious possible cause of jaw pain when running is that the pain might really be coming from your heart. This is because referred pain from the heart is often felt in the jaw. Angina is a condition in which your heart is suffering because it is (ironically) not getting enough blood, and it causes chest pain, although this is sometimes felt as pain in the jaw or left arm. Blocked arteries can also cause jaw pain, as can temporal arteritis, which is when swelling causes blood vessels to narrow, making them and other tissues around them suffer pain.

These conditions may be an early warning for a heart attack, which is why runners that experience jaw pain should talk to a doctor.

Serious: TMJ

TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) is when your jaw is out of balance, out of alignment, or has displaced the cushioning disc that is supposed to separate it from the skull. Beyond jaw pain, TMJ can cause headaches, tinnitus, neck pain, and other symptoms. In the early stages TMJ may only manifest when your jaw is irritated by high-impact exercises like running. As it worsens, it may become a constant condition. TMJ treatment may initially be easy, but as the condition develops, required treatment becomes more invasive and surgery may be required.

Minor: Cold Ears

Another potential cause for sore jaw is when cold air gets into your ears and causes tissue in the jaw area to become painfully sore. This isn’t a serious medical problem, and most people can remedy it by just wearing ear muffs, a head wrap, or other ear protection when running in cold weather.

If you suspect that TMJ might be to blame for your jaw pain while running, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver TMJ dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.