Known in the medical field as trismus, lockjaw is a condition wherein the jaw fails to open properly or fully, keeping it from functioning well. Certainly, it is something that can interfere with eating, talking and others that involve the use of the mouth. Lockjaw per se is harmless. However, the problem behind it usually needs to be addressed.
There are a handful of things that can cause lockjaw. Of them, the most well-known is the bacterial infection known as tetanus. One of the symptoms of tetanus is prolonged contraction of the muscles, and that is why it can keep the mouth from opening. By the way, tetanus is a serious medical condition as it can be fatal!
Other usual causes of lockjaw are those that entail the inflammation of the muscles or soft tissues of the mouth, which can be caused by anything from excessive chewing or use of the mouth to temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ — a jaw disorder that can cause a great deal of pain. Basically, just about anything that can cause swelling and fatigue of the muscles or soft tissues of the mouth, such as fever and various oral diseases, can put you at risk of lockjaw.
In order to treat lockjaw, the underlying cause has to be identified first. As mentioned earlier, it can be due to tetanus. Having the said bacterial infection treated can help in managing lockjaw. It’s important to note that an infection such as tetanus needs to be addressed medically as soon as possible to keep serious complications at bay.
Mild to moderate cases of lockjaw that is not caused by an infection or any other medical condition that needs to be dealt with immediately tends to go away on its own. In most cases, the problem resolves in 1 to 2 weeks even without treatment provided by a medical professional. To shorten the recovery period, here are some things that may be done at home:
Apply Cold Compress
Lockjaw can be painful. To attain immediate relief from pain, place a handful of ice cubes in a small towel, gather the ends and secure with your hand, and apply directly on the area. Perform this home remedy several times a day to reduce or even eliminate lockjaw-related pain as well as inflammation.
Opt for Hot Compress
An effective way to reduce muscle tightening or spasm during a bout of lockjaw is by applying hot compress over the trouble area. If a heating pad is not available, you may dip a small hand towel in hot water, wring out the excess, fold neatly and gently place over the painful and swollen area.
Increase Fluid Intake
It’s not unlikely for dehydration to cause lockjaw as it leaves the muscles and tissues of the mouth stiff. This is the reason why it is recommended for someone who is suffering from a mild case of lockjaw to drink plenty of water. Consuming cold water can also help reduce pain and discomfort.
Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium is a mineral with several different roles, including relaxing the muscles. That is why adding magnesium-rich food in the diet is a good idea if you are suffering from lockjaw. The likes of avocados, yogurt, oatmeal, corn, spinach and pumpkin seeds can help relax the muscles of the jaw.
Drink Muscle-Relaxing Teas
There are many herbs on the planet that are known to promote muscle relaxation, making them effective against so many muscle-related problems such as lockjaw. Regularly take chamomile, nettle, catnip or valerian tea as they can help relax stiff muscles, speeding up your recovery from that lockjaw.
Garlic is know to possess powerful antibiotic properties, making it effective against all sorts of infections — including the kind that causes lockjaw. Consider eating dishes with lots of garlic in them. Similarly, you may swallow 2 to 3 raw cloves of garlic daily for an all-natural relief from the infection.
Massage Mustard Oil with Garlic
You can take advantage of the antibacterial properties of garlic topically by boiling some cloves of it in mustard oil. Cool to room temperature and gently massage the oil on the affected area. Mustard oil, by the way, helps promote blood flow to the area, accelerating the healing of the affected muscles and tissues.