Your Jaw’s Role in Upper Body Motion

Woman sitting at laptop with shoulder and lower back pain

Being upright frees our hands for all the tasks we demand of them, but the challenges it places on your body’s structures are great. One major challenge is how to leverage force in the upper body when there aren’t a lot of bones in the neck. This may not seem like it’s a big deal (we’re not bench pressing with our neck), but just supporting the head and performing normal tasks like chewing and swallowing take a surprising amount of effort. And that effort is multiplied when we do things like bend our head down to look at our smartphones a lot.

Your jaw plays an important role in helping stabilize the muscles of the head and neck. As a large, stable bone platform, it provides attachments for head and neck muscles that perform a variety of roles in the function of your upper body. Most of the time, you won’t notice the role of your jaw in upper body tasks, though you might notice your jaw clenches when you lift heavy weights or otherwise exert your upper body strength.

But when your jaw is out of balance, it can throw off the balance in your neck muscles. Your neck muscles may find themselves recruited into helping jaw muscles perform their tasks, including stabilizing the head, chewing, and swallowing. When this happens, your neck muscles can become strained and your neck may tilt as a result.
When your neck muscles are out of balance or strained from assisting the jaw, they may recruit shoulder muscles to help them out. The shoulder muscles might then recruit upper back muscles, a chain reaction that passes tension and soreness down from your jaw, through your neck, into your shoulders and back.

Restore Stability and Beat Back Pain

Our body is a unified whole composed of many interlocked and interdependent systems. Deviation in any of your systems can literally have effects from head to toe. It can be difficult to track down the actual source of your body’s imbalances, and many traditional doctors don’t consider jaw imbalance when trying to find the source of your neck, shoulder, or back pain.

At the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness we will consider whether your jaw is the cause of your pain. If we find jaw dysfunction, we will treat it, but if not, we will refer you to one of our health care partners so that you can receive treatment appropriate to the actual cause of your discomfort.

To learn whether TMJ treatment is right for your shoulder and back pain, please call (248) 480-0085 the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness today.