Although pain is most commonly felt in the jaw or as headaches, TMJ pain can also express itself as facial or neck pain. This pain is often related to an imbalance among the muscles in the jaw joint. The jaw muscles themselves may be the cause of the pain, or they may be passing on the pain as they share the load with nearby muscles. An off balance jaw can even lead to pinched nerves in the neck, which is an entirely different kind of pain.
Causes of TMJ Face Pain
If you experience face pain related to your TMJ, it usually comes from one of three sources:
- Muscle pain
- Nerve pain
- Referred pain
Muscle pain is the most common type of TMJ-related facial pain. Usually, this is just the same as muscle jaw pain, but it is perceived differently. The chewing muscles attach behind and above the eyes, in the cheek, and around the nose, so it’s quite reasonable to describe pain in these muscles as “face pain.”
Other times, your face pain may be related to pinched or pressured nerves. This could lead to aching, dull pain, or sharp, electric pains. You might also experience tingling and numbness in the affected areas.
Other times, you might be experiencing referred pain that is actually being caused elsewhere but is being felt as facial pain. The most common referred pain that is confused with face pain is dental pain. If TMJ is causing significant damage to your teeth, then it’s likely that your facial pain is actually related to tooth damage.
Causes of TMJ Neck Pain
As with other types of pain, the most common cause of neck pain in TMJ is muscle tension. When your jaw joint is imbalanced, and jaw muscles are working inefficiently or even against each other, jaw muscle fatigue sets in. Fatigued muscles often recruit neighboring muscles to help them out. These recruited muscles can also get tired and sore.
But sometimes you may experience pinched nerves that result in neck pain. The human spinal column is a delicately stacked tower of blocks held in place by various muscles in the back and neck. When the jaw joint recruits neck muscles disproportionately on one side, it can pull the neck out of alignment. When this happens, the space for nerves to emerge from the spine becomes restricted on one side, leading to pressured or pinched nerves. This can cause pain or tingling and numbness, either locally in the neck or as far away as the fingers.
TMJ treatment can restore the balance in the muscles of the jaw and neck, alleviating most types of face and neck pain. To learn whether TMJ treatment can help relieve your pain, please call the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness at (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment.