December 2nd, 2010
10:38 AM ET

Why does my jaw hurt when I exercise?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. Today, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Sara from Texas

When I'm exercising, I often get jaw pain. It feels like someone is pressing inward on the joint with their fingers very hard. I've been very careful to maintain a relaxed posture and avoid tensing while I exercise, but the pain still comes. The kind of exercise I'm doing is low impact on the elliptical machine. I've even stopped using the arm holds because I've been worried the back and forth motion was making me tense. I've looked online and found that this could be a sign of heart problems, but I'm only 23 with no family history. Should I be concerned?

Dear Sara:

I am glad you've asked this question, as pains in the chest, left arm and jaw are a very common concern among people beginning an exercise regimen. The bottom line is, anyone who is planning to begin working out should get clearance from a physician before starting. Even children getting into a school sport should get medical clearance. Most importantly, those who begin a regimen and have any unexpected pains and discomforts should stop the activity and seek evaluation from a physician. You should not restart the activity until the cause of the pain is determined and measures are planned to prevent it.

Angina, or pain from the heart muscle not getting enough oxygenated blood, can present as mild to severe chest pain, a pain or numbness running up the left arm, pain in the jaw or even as a headache. Angina is typical in patients with cardiovascular disease undergoing strenuous exertion. Strenuous activity increases the heart's need for oxygen. Partial obstruction in the coronary arteries leads to less than adequate flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. The discomfort usually decreases or goes away with rest. If the heart is deprived of blood long enough, some of the heart muscle will die. This is commonly called a myocardial infarction or a heart attack. Death of heart muscle can lead to heart rhythm problems and difficulty in the heart pumping blood. The latter is known as congestive heart failure.

The typical person with cardiovascular disease and angina is in his or her 50s or older. In younger people, discomfort of the chest, the left arm, and the jaw during exercise is more commonly due to non-heart problems. Physicians will assess the young individual with these symptoms for abnormalities of the heart valves and congenital malformations of the heart. These findings are rare. Even rarer is the young person with coronary artery blockages. Young people with coronary artery disease usually have a family and personal history of high serum cholesterol or serum triglyceride or have a history of radiation therapy to chest for another disease such as a cancer.

Patients under evaluation may get electrocardiograms, ultrasound studies of the heart or exercise stress tests. In an exercise stress test, the heart performance is evaluated during exertion with an electrocardiogram, and often with ultrasound and nuclear medicine - use of traceable material injected into the blood vessels to look for blockages.

Among young people, chest discomfort during exercise is commonly due to indigestion, acid reflux, or even muscular and skeletal pain in the rib cage. Pain in the jaw can be due to tensing of the jaw or malocclusion of teeth (a bad bite). Numbness and pain in the forearm are commonly due to carpal tunnel syndrome from gripping exercise machines.

Again I stress that one should not self-diagnose this discomfort. It should be evaluated by a health professional.

Ask our expert docs a question

Next entry »
soundoff (2,298 Responses)
  1. rv technician near me


    May 12, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. toad truck near me


    May 12, 2021 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Interior Remodeling Near Me


    May 12, 2021 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. trailer repair near me now


    May 13, 2021 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Toilets Los Angeles

    You are so interesting! I don't suppose I have read anything like this before. So nice to find someone with original thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    May 13, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rv repair service


    May 13, 2021 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. rv repair riverside ca

    I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will book mark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.


    May 13, 2021 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sprinter Repair Los Angeles

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be interesting to read through articles from other authors and use something from their websites.


    May 13, 2021 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Panels


    May 13, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. parts shop near me

    When I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!


    May 13, 2021 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sprinter Black Death Repair


    May 13, 2021 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. reupholster places near me

    Great post. I am experiencing some of these issues as well..


    May 13, 2021 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. lighting repair near me


    May 13, 2021 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. fiberglass company near me

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this topic here on your blog.


    May 13, 2021 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Camera Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sprinter Diesel Repair


    May 13, 2021 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. camper repair places near me


    May 13, 2021 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. rv dealers in orange county ca

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this web site before but after looking at a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    May 13, 2021 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. dash store calabasas ca


    May 13, 2021 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. rv tire shop near me


    May 13, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Service Near Me

    Excellent post. I am dealing with a few of these issues as well..


    May 13, 2021 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. rv camper repair near me


    May 13, 2021 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. rv upholstery repair

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. I think that you should publish more about this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people don't discuss these topics. To the next! Many thanks!!


    May 13, 2021 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv ac repair near me

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!


    May 13, 2021 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV AC Los Angeles


    May 13, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Camera Los Angeles


    May 13, 2021 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dry Van Trailer Repair


    May 13, 2021 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. ac shop near me


    May 13, 2021 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. LebnEncox

    pharmacy mall http://xlnpharmacy.com/ drug stores near me

    May 13, 2021 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Batteries California


    May 13, 2021 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Steps Orange County

    You have made some good points there. I looked on the web for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.


    May 13, 2021 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. windshield repair orange ca

    Aw, this was a very good post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a top notch article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.


    May 13, 2021 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. rvupgrades reviews

    I like it when people get together and share ideas. Great website, continue the good work!


    May 13, 2021 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. paint repair shop near me


    May 13, 2021 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. beeg me

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the net. I'm going to recommend this site!


    May 13, 2021 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Authorized Mercedes Sprinter Service Centers Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. windshield repair orange county ca

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else getting similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 13, 2021 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Sprinter Van Rooftop A/C Leak Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. rv awning repair near me


    May 14, 2021 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Entertainment System Riverside

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thank you!


    May 14, 2021 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. solar system repair near me

    I love it when individuals come together and share thoughts. Great blog, continue the good work!


    May 14, 2021 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. fiberglass store near me

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.


    May 14, 2021 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Seats Orange County

    It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people for this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 14, 2021 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Sprinter Van Repair Shop Near Me


    May 14, 2021 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. kenworth shop near me

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article. Thanks for providing these details.


    May 14, 2021 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. 2008 Dodge Sprinter Exhaust Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 05:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. motor home repair parts

    It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people about this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 14, 2021 at 05:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Windows Riverside


    May 14, 2021 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Bay Doors California


    May 14, 2021 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Release Clip Repair On Mercedes Sprinter Seat

    This is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read post!


    May 14, 2021 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Next entry »
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.