What is TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorder?

TMJ refers to the temporal mandibular joint which is located near the jaw. TMJ has a characteristic pain that is very similar to neck pain which causes severe discomfort in affected patients. People must understand and differentiate between the cause of the aches that they get around the neck for more accurate treatment. The neck aches can vary in terms of affected areas, pain intensity and frequency. TMJ is usually caused by inflammation in the joint on either side of the jaw that spreads to the nerve muscles and sometimes in and around the blood vessels near the head area. Pain is also felt in other areas near the jaw.

Causes of TMJ Neck Pain

  • The temporomandibular joint is partially covered with cartilage and there is a disk that helps keep the movement smooth between these joints as it acts as a shock absorber. TMJ neck pain can occur if the disk moves out of its alignment due to an injury. 
  • The TMJ joint’s cartilage can be severely affected by arthritis that can cause severe TMJ neck pain. 
  • If you have a long term habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, you can develop TMJ neck pain. 
  • Connective tissue diseases can affect the temporomandibular joint causing severe neck pain. 
  • Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis is also a reason behind Tmj neck pain. 

TMJ Neck Pain Symptoms

As mentioned earlier, TMJ neck pain has varied manifestations in different people. As the inflammation continues to worsen, the pain grows into the muscles and also other connective tissue, causing several painful symptoms like: 

  • A dull but painful aching sensation, which can worsen into a severe painful sensation. It includes the muscles of the neck, face, muscles of the temple and scalp. 
  • Evident redness and swelling in the head and the neck areas with aches worsening as your jaw moves. 
  • Direct tenderness around the jaw. 
  • Aches can be on either side or both sides of the jaw. 
  • Ear Pain or tinnitus is associated with TMJ neck pain 
  • Due to the pain spreading due to the nerves, you can also feel your cheeks hurt. 
  • You can develop lock jaw symptoms due to TMJ neck pain 
  • TMJ migraines and headaches are direct consequences of the pain and discomfort. 
  • You may feel dizzy at times due to the pain. 
  • Due to the pain, sometimes it is dfficult to open your mouth to talk or eat. 
  • Teeth grinding may occur while sleeping at night.

Also Read: Neck Exercise for Cervical Spondylosis

How to treat TMJ Neck Pain? 

TMJ can be cured by physiotherapy for neck pain, by performing tmj pain relief exercises, and, by taking tmj pain relief medication. In extremely rare and serious cases, surgical intervention is required but this sort of neck pain can be easily cured without serious medical intervention.

Here are some ideas and treatment plans on how to cure tmj permanently 

  • Physiotherapy for neck pain is a great tool that can be used to treat the pain symptoms of tmj neck pain. It workds to reduce the inflammation, helps improve movement, posture and overall function of the temporal mandibular joint. 
  • Your assigned physiotherapist might recommend tmj pain relief exercises like various jaw movement exercises that help release tension and work to reduce inflammation in the surrounding joint. These jaw movement exercises also help restore functionality and range of motion. 
  • Physiotherapists also identify lifestyle measures like posture that might be causing TMJ in the first place. By identifying your normal posture and suggesting a corrective posture, they provide a long term prevention plan when it comes to TMJ neck pain. Your physiotherapist will advice you to not rest your jaw on the shoulder while sitting, or not to look at your phone above shoulder level, etc. 
  • Massage therapies which promote stretching and joint mobilization help in relaxing the muscles around the jaw, thus helping bring back normal functionality. These massage therapies also help with the lock jaw symptoms as well as the tension and stiffness that gets built up around the neck muscles. 
  • As the TMJ pain also concerns the mouth and jaw area, your physiotherapist works in consultation with your orthodontist or dentist to help come with a treatment plan that works holistically to provide you with a suitable treatment plan. 
  • Physiotherapy for neck pain transcends the plan of performing just a handful of exercises- it also includes making important lifestyle changes to prevent recurrence and promote a speedy recovery. The physiotherapist creates an exercise routine that is built to be in sync with your lifestyle and routine. 
  • If you are suffering from TMJ neck pain, clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth may make it worse, so your doctor will probably ask you to be more conscious of this in your day-to-day life. 
  • Eating is going to be a big change so it will be recommended to cut your food into smaller pieces to help your jaw chew food properly without causing more pain and discomfort. 
  • Sleeping positions will be recommended by your physiotherapist as they can help you alleviate your neck pain. Sleeping with your face down will be a strict no-no as it puts extra strain on your neck. 

Also Read: Physiotherapy Guidelines for Chronic Neck Pain

For more information about neck pain, pain relief exercises and more, head on over to Phyt Health – India’s first digital physiotherapy platform that uses 3D imaging and Artificial Intelligence to give you accurate treatment plans.
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