As spring rolls around and all the snow finally melts, many people are getting out their bikes from winter storage. In Fort Atkinson, we have many great trails for bicycling in town and between towns, such as the Glacial River Trail. Plus, there are more trails on the way.

athletic man bicycling need a warm lakeMany people favor bicycling as a great form of exercise that’s low-impact, fun, and practical–you can actually bike to the store and pick up supplies. However, sometimes people develop a significant side effect of bicycling: jaw pain. Jaw pain can put a damper on your daily ride. It can also signify that you have serious jaw problems that require professional attention. If you experience jaw pain and other related symptoms on your bike rides, you should get tested for temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD). Treating TMJ now can not only make your bike ride more pleasant, but it can also head off serious jaw problems in the future.

How Biking Can Cause Jaw Pain

There are many potential causes of jaw pain while bicycle riding. Some of the most common are:

  • Cold
  • Poor posture
  • Strenuous effort
  • Tension and stress
  • Bouncing while mountain biking
  • Previous jaw injury

Understanding the cause of your jaw pain can help you find the proper remedy to avoid pain in the future.

Cold Air Can Cause Jaw Pain

If you notice that your jaw pain is mainly linked to riding in cold weather, the issue is likely just cold air. Cold air can enter your mouth or ears, which can cool the tissues of the jaw, making them stiff and sore.

To stop this, try dressing more warmly for your cold-weather rides or riding only in warm weather. Remember: air feels a lot colder when it’s rushing by you quickly on your bike rides. Sometimes, jaw problems that become chronic might register first in cold weather. Even if warm weather riding remedies pain now, watch for jaw pain on future rides.

Jaw Pain from Poor Posture

Sometimes, your jaw pain might be related to your head, neck, and back. Your jaw muscles partner with the head and neck muscles to help hold your head in place. If you experience recurring jaw pain when riding, make sure you’re maintaining a good posture on your bike. Have a friend or family member take a picture of you while riding so you can see how you look.

If you think you might have poor posture while riding, talk to a biking instructor to see how you might improve.

Strenuous Effort Leads to Jaw Pain

Another potential source of jaw pain while riding is the hard effort you put into the exercise. Jaw clenching is common when people are exercising hard. It’s part of trying to stabilize your core and maximize the output of muscles. If you get jaw pain while climbing slopes, this is a likely cause.

Ideally, you should use your muscles at full strength without experiencing jaw pain. If exercise tends to cause you jaw pain, it might be because you have TMJ. Getting your jaw in a healthy position can help you avoid jaw pain now and other more severe TMJ symptoms in the future.

Tension and Stress Causes Jaw Pain

Another common reason people clench their jaws while riding is tension or stress. There are many possible sources of stress when riding. Some people get stressed when riding fast, such as taking a curvy downhill route. Other people get stressed when they’re biking alongside highway traffic. Other people get stressed because they work hard to condition themselves for competition.

If you feel yourself clenching your teeth from stress when you ride, try consciously to relax. If some routes are stressful, try taking a different path. If you can’t seem to keep from clenching when you ride, the problem might be more than just stress. Consider that TMJ might be partly responsible. Get tested for the condition by a TMJ dentist.

Bouncing While Mountain Biking

We don’t have a lot of mountains around Fort Atkinson, but we do have a few mountain bike trails. Some of these use the natural terrain, while others are built to test your skills as a biker.

In either type of trail, you may experience a lot of jolting and bouncing as you ride. Some of it is from hitting gnar, while some of it is from hopping your bike over the terrain. These jolts can stress the connections between your skull and your jaw. Your jaw just hangs from your skull–it has no other bony support, so this type of stress can put you at risk for jaw tension and dislocated discs.

You might also be clenching your jaw from stress or effort on the trail.

Previous Jaw Injury

Jaw injury is a common cause of TMJ. It’s also a very common injury for people bicycling. If you’ve had a previous jaw injury, you might be experiencing symptoms of TMJ when you ride now. You didn’t have to have a blow to the jaw to get a significant jaw injury. Many people develop jaw symptoms due to whiplash injuries following a car accident. Even if you think your prior jaw injury has fully healed, it’s time to talk to a TMJ dentist about whether you might benefit from TMJ treatment.

Let Us Help with Jaw Pain in Fort Atkinson

Whether you experience jaw pain while biking, lifting weights, working around the house, or during any other activity, it could be TMJ. Dr. Jennifer Stafford is here to help. Please call (920) 563-7323 to contact us about an appointment at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson.