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. Maserati Service Center Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Same Day Optical Near Me

    I'm more than happy to find this web site. I need to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new things on your site.


    May 19, 2021 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. best energy pills 2019

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy that I found this in my hunt for something regarding this.


    May 19, 2021 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Roof Contractors Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 02:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Maserati Granturismo Lease Specials

    I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!


    May 19, 2021 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Maserati For Sale

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Thank you for providing this info.


    May 19, 2021 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Roofing Supply Company Near Me

    bookmarked!!, I like your website!


    May 19, 2021 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Maserati Granturismo 2010

    You are so awesome! I do not suppose I have read something like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that's needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!


    May 19, 2021 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Roofing Jobs Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Commercial Roof Restoration Near Me

    Great web site you've got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 19, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Get Glasses Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Best Eye Exam Near Me

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written!


    May 19, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. LebnEncox

    Voltaren canadian pharcharmy online no precipitation erectile dysfunction

    May 19, 2021 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Eye Exam Near Me

    I needed to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I've got you book-marked to check out new things you post…


    May 19, 2021 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Roofing Store Near Me

    This page truly has all the info I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 19, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Social Media Marketing Specialist


    May 19, 2021 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Hong Kong luxury

    Howdy I am so glad I found your web site, I really found
    you by accident, while I was researching on Askjeeve for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for
    a incredible post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don't have time
    to look over it all at the minute but I have saved it
    and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back
    to read more, Please do keep up the awesome job.

    May 19, 2021 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Micheal Smith

    Great post! I like to learn, and I have learned something! Thanks you very much keep the good work!


    May 19, 2021 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Maserati Suv Price 2019

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 19, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Printing Services Near Me

    Hello there! This post could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I will send this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    May 19, 2021 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Vinyl Signs Near Me

    Great post. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    May 19, 2021 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. wedding gifts for daughter from mom

    Hi there, I do think your blog might be having internet browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, excellent site!


    May 19, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Boat Wraps Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV AC California

    This is a topic which is close to my heart... Best wishes! Where are your contact details though?


    May 19, 2021 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Upholstery Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. 2012 Mercedez Benz Sprinter Repair

    After I originally left a comment I seem 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. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


    May 19, 2021 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Repair Shop


    May 19, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Batteries Riverside


    May 19, 2021 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. camera repair orange county ca

    Right here is the right web site for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been discussed for many years. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


    May 19, 2021 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Bay Doors California


    May 19, 2021 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Furniture California


    May 19, 2021 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. lighting repair near me


    May 19, 2021 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. sunroof repair near me

    Saved as a favorite, I like your site!


    May 19, 2021 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Interior Remodeling California

    I love it when people get together and share opinions. Great site, keep it up!


    May 19, 2021 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. rv step repair


    May 19, 2021 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. JebgEncox

    Medex http://pharmacylo.com/ п»їyour pharmacy online

    May 19, 2021 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Local Marketing Company

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am having difficulties with your RSS. I don’t know why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS issues? Anyone that knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 20, 2021 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Google Marketing Consultant


    May 20, 2021 at 03:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Digital Marketing Companies Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 03:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Social Media Marketing Specialist Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Content Marketing Consultant


    May 20, 2021 at 05:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Social Media Marketing Consultant


    May 20, 2021 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Internet Marketing Agency


    May 20, 2021 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Local Marketing Firms


    May 20, 2021 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Google Marketing Company

    Excellent web site you have here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 20, 2021 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Content Marketing Near Me

    bookmarked!!, I like your web site!


    May 20, 2021 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. SEO Marketing Agency

    Very good post. I'm dealing with a few of these issues as well..


    May 20, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Internet Marketing Specialist

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the site is really good.


    May 20, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Digital Marketing Companies


    May 20, 2021 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. SEO Marketing Agencies


    May 20, 2021 at 10:19 | 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.