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The Lockjaw - Causes and Treatment

Everything's just fine. Maybe you're at work and doing what you're doing, or you're visiting your parents again, or you're sitting in the cinema. All this is of course nothing really adventurous. It's not as if you're sitting in a roller coaster and the adrenaline is just flowing through your body. Besides, you didn't sleep very well last night, for whatever reason. Conclusion remains: You are somehow tired.

And then it happens: Because of the monotony of your current occupation and the lack of serotonin in your body, you're not really awake and you have to yawn. Not knowing what is about to happen to you, you open your mouth.

Suddenly a hell of a pain in your jaw, so strong and stinging that you think it will never go away again. Suddenly you are wide awake, panic-stricken. You try to close your mouth again, but it does not work. The pain gets worse, explodes with every movement as soon as you try to close your mouth again. But whatever you do, whatever strain you take on yourself because of the roaring pain in your jaw: Nothing helps at all. Trembling and sweating, you somehow manage to signal to your fellow human beings what is going on, and they take you to the nearest doctor's office or emergency room.

What just happened to you is commonly called a lockjaw. It is, so to speak, the opposite of a trismus, in which it is only possible to open the mouth at all under pain. However, the lockjaw is much more painful and occurs much more often than the trismus.

How can the lockjaw be explained?

In principle, it's quite simple. Your lower jaw hangs at its upper two ends left and right at the head in a joint. These joints, with a whole lot of softer cartilage, ensure that you can fold your lower jaw up and down, which is essential for breathing, eating and talking, among other things.

However, as soon as the jaw is opened too far in an unfavourable position, the two joint ends of the lower jaw may slip out of the holders of the upper jaw. This is comparable to a dislocated shoulder. Here, too, the joint head of the upper arm slips out of its intended hollow in the shoulder.

Unfortunately, the problem with dislocated joints is that the body has not created extra space for such situations. If the ball of a joint is out of its holder, it takes up space somewhere else, which is actually intended for something else. And in the vast majority of cases, this is at least one nerve cord that has to make way for the dislocation and is pushed to the side. It is not uncommon for the nerves to be squeezed or excessively strained. As a result, the nerves send strong to unbearable pain signals to the brain - think, for example, of toothache, which is triggered only by nerves that come into contact with foreign bodies.

What to do if you have a lockjaw?

There are not many actions you can take if you dislocate your lower jaw. The few that come into consideration, however, are very effective, although they are almost always associated with the strongest pain.

First, there's the so-called Hippocrates handling. With this, the lower jaw is pushed downwards and forwards with a light to moderate pressure so that the head of the joint can return to its original position. But even if this is successful, you may still feel some pain for some time because the nerves have to relax again. But be careful! Not everyone masters the trick. And even if you have already successfully applied it yourself, it is not said that under your acute pain, which only gets worse with every touch, you are also able to solve the problem on your own. It is best to turn to someone you trust when he tells you that he can do the same and has experience with it.

Alternatively, there is of course always the possibility of consulting a doctor or orthodontist. However, if they are unable to do anything, they will probably refer you to the nearest emergency room, where a minor surgical procedure will be performed to ensure that your jaw will be repositioned without complications. In many cases, you will get an anaesthetic for your pain if you haven't already had it from your doctor or orthodontist.

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