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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) and Neck Pain

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) and Neck Pain

According to Harvard Medical School, about 80 percent of people experience neck pain, and 12 percent of the people in the United States experience some kind of issue with their temporomandibular joint.

There are many facial symptoms that can be associated with TMD or temporomandibular disorders, and one of them is the association between temporomandibular joint disorders and neck pain. The pain can be attributed to workplace strain, a sports injury, or a bad night’s sleep. However, with temporomandibular joint issues, the pain can originate in your jaw.

How is this possible?

The anatomy of the temporomandibular joint

Your lower jaw or mandible jaw has two extensions of bone referred to as condyles. These bones are attached on either side of your skull to the temporal bones. To absorb impact during movement and help the joint move smoothly, a spongy, soft disc is present between the bony socket and the condyles. We also have 4 pairs of chewing muscles that are mainly responsible for jaw movements. They are called the muscles of mastication.

The TMJ connects your skull to the lower jawbone. The muscles attached to these joints help you swallow, talk, and chew. These joints connect your jaw and neck, and because of this, muscle tension originating from the jaw can move down to the neck and can manifest in spasms, aches, reduced flexibility, and tight muscles.

Simply put, jaw pain can easily turn into neck pain.

Causes of TMJ

The causes are not always clear. There can be a number of sources of TMJ beyond a serious injury, which include:

  • Misalignment of a disc in the TMJ
  • Anxiety and stress, which can cause teeth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Arthritis
  • Dislocated jaw

Symptoms of TMJ

Temporomandibular joint issues can manifest in different ways other than neck and jaw pain. It’s possible for you to also experience:

  • Mouth discomfort when swallowing, chewing, talking, and yawning
  • Bruxism (teeth clenching or grinding)
  • Pain in the face, ear, and shoulders
  • Stiffness or pain that prevents you from fully closing your mouth
  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
  • Vision problems, including dizziness.
  • A grinding or clicking sound, especially when yawning or chewing

Treatments for TMJ

Identifying the proper treatment for TMJ can be challenging since it can have many causes. Some symptoms may go away naturally, but if not, there are nonsurgical and self-care techniques you can try.

  • Stress relieving techniques like meditation or exercise.
  • Eating soft foods.
  • Practicing good posture. Make sure that your posture is not putting pressure on your neck.
  • Taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Applying ice or heat packs.

If the pain persists, your dentist or physician might recommend the following:

  • Jaw exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • A nighttime mouthguard
  • Prescription medication

In rare cases, surgery may be recommended, when no other methods bring relief.

Regardless of the cause, if you are experiencing jaw and neck pain, consider going to your Dallas dentist or physician for a professional consultation so you can get timely treatment.