Trismus or tetany is a medical condition of the jaw in which a person cannot effectively open or move it properly. Because of this, it is often called “lockjaw” by those who have suffered from it before. It can sometimes affect the entire jaw, but it is usually limited to just one side of it. Most cases of it are temporary. However, if it isn’t treated in time, there is a chance that it could become permanent, so it is crucial to understand the following information about how to get rid of lockjaw.

Man with aching jaw

Symptoms and Facts on How to Get Rid of Lockjaw

Lockjaw begins with minor contractions of the jaw muscles. Then, the contractions worsen until the affected person develops a tightly-clenched jaw that gives them a grimaced appearance. Eating and drinking become very difficult because in order to swallow properly, the jaw has to move freely. So those who try to consume anything are at risk of aspirating on the food or beverages.

If the lockjaw is caused by tetanus, then there will be other symptoms that happen along with the jaw contractions. But they usually begin about three to seven days after someone is exposed to the infection. The first symptom is a low-grade fever. This is generally followed by pain in the jaw region and an increase in the person’s blood pressure. Sweating and trouble swallowing are also common. Later on, the muscles in the entire body will start to seize. Sometimes, these contractions can be so severe that they break some of the person’s bones.

What Causes Lockjaw?

More often than not, lockjaw is caused by a simple case of arthritis or an infection or injury. But if a person doesn’t receive all of their vaccinations, and they are accidentally injured by a piece of rusty metal or an old nail, they could end up with a serious case of tetanus, which can also cause the jaw to seize up. Lockjaw that is caused by tetany is different than that caused by tetanus. Tetany occurs from intense muscle contractions that are exacerbated by low calcium or magnesium levels or the dysfunction of the parathyroid gland. And cases of lockjaw from tetanus begin when the neurons that are responsible for the muscle coordination in the body are not inhibited properly because of a person’s exposure to the infection.

Important Things to Know About Lockjaw

Although it is rare, there are some cases of lockjaw that can result in death. This most often occurs only when a person doesn’t receive treatment in time though. Because of this, anyone who develops the symptoms of lockjaw should go straight to an emergency room for how to get rid of lockjaw instead of waiting for the soonest doctor’s appointment. If an injury from a rusty nail or piece of metal occurred, it is best to bring the nail or metal along to the hospital since this will help the doctor to be able to more easily identify the problem and treat the wound site. If the nail or metal punctures the skin, most doctors recommend that it be left in place until reaching the emergency room though. That is because pulling it free may do further damage. It could also increase the amount of blood that is lost.

Jaw bone illustration with orange and blue

How to Get Rid of Lockjaw

Understanding how to get rid of lockjaw isn’t easy because its treatment is based on what its initial cause was. Still, the following is a list of some of the top remedies that can help:

1. Antibiotics

The sooner that antibiotics are started, the better. These, of course, have to be prescribed by a doctor though because the strength and type of the antibiotics that are given will be based on a person’s height, weight, and overall level of health. Also, taking leftover antibiotics from other health issues won’t always be enough to kill off the infection. It takes at least a ten-day dosage to rid the body of tetanus or another type of bacteria that is causing the lockjaw to occur.

2. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen works great for relieving the swelling, pain, and inflammation in the muscles of the jaw. It also reduces fevers very well, and it usually begins working in less than 30 minutes. It is best to start out with a low dose of the over-the-counter pain-reliever first. That way, there will less likely be any stomach irritation from taking it.

3. Massage

While it might sound too simple to be effective, gently massaging the jaw will increase oxygen-rich blood flow to the area. And this will, in turn, reduce swelling, pain, and muscle contractions. It helps to apply warm compresses to the area in between massage times to encourage the muscles to stay relaxed.

You may also want to check out these natural remedies:

As you can see, lockjaw is a serious medical condition that should never be ignored because it could be a sign of tetanus, which is a dangerous infection that could lead to further injury or even death. Most cases of lockjaw are easily treated with antibiotics, ibuprofen, and massage. However, to speed up the healing time, it helps to rest the jaws as much as possible. Trying to force them to open will only cause further injury. And remember, lockjaw that is caused by tetanus is preventable. All it takes is a simple vaccination every ten years for how to get rid of lockjaw. Most doctors recommend getting the first tetanus vaccination by 14 years old.

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