How lockjaw is managed

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Lockjaw involves spasms of the masseter muscle or the jaw muscle caused by being infected by tetanus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that causes painful spasms of the muscles.

Lockjaw is a disorder that prevents the mouth from opening properly and fully. The pain can spread to the ears, face, shoulders and the neck. When trying to open the mouth, a clicking sound can be heard as the joint locks.

Causes of lockjaw

  • Lockjaw can be caused by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation of the muscles and soft tissues
  • Injuries
  • Tetanus infections
    Strange facial expressions due to stiffness and spasms of the muscles.


The symptoms of tetanus usually develop after being infected by the bacteria.

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Strange facial expressions due to stiffness and spasms of the muscles


  • Massage the affected masseter muscles and joints of the jaw to lessen the pain. Apply gentle pressure on the muscles of the jaw to lessen the pain. Using the index and the middle finger, rub the cheeks and the tender area on the jaw. Massage the area using the fingers in a circular movement for at least 30 seconds. Avoid pressing it too hard though.
  • Apply a warm compress on the affected jaw for at least 30 minutes to lessen the pain. A heating pad can also be used to loosen the stiff muscles and minimize pain caused by lockjaw. Heat is good for relaxing the muscles and prevents muscle spasms by increasing the flow of blood in the area.
  • Apply an ice pack alternately with heat is beneficial for the condition. Lower temperature lessens the inflammation and pain. Apply the ice packs for at least 5-10 minutes after applying heat.
  • Maintain proper posture to prevent temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) that causes lockjaw. Sit in an erect position while working and take a break to relax the spine. Sleep on the back and avoid sleeping on the side to prevent making the condition worse. When sleeping, use cervical pillows to prevent lockjaw.
  • Increase the intake of magnesium in the diet. Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the jaw and the nervous system, lessens the pain and promotes fast healing of the condition. Foods rich in magnesium include avocado, almonds, flaxseeds, oatmeal, yogurt, sesame seeds, corn, spinach, watermelon seeds and pumpkin.
  • Eat a variety of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals that keep the body healthy such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the daily diet. Eat whole grains, and avoid eating junk foods to prevent the recurrence of lockjaw.
  • Chew food slowly which is a good exercise for the muscles of the jaw.
  • Keep the body well hydrated to prevent lockjaw. Dehydration causes muscle cramps and also affects the joints. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.

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