Neck Pain and TMJ

Neck pain is a common symptom of TMJ disorder. In patients with TMJ disorders, head and neck aches can be quite varied in character, position, and timing. In general, it helps to understand the cause of these aches with TMJ since that may help you characterize the discomforts better. With TMJ syndromes, the inflammation within the temporo-mandibular joint on either side can spread. As this inflammation spreads, it can move along nerves, muscles or even blood vessels in and around the head area. As this happens, pain is felt in other areas outside of the jaw.

Inflammation that spreads into muscles and other connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) tends to have a tight dull aching sensation of pain in TMJ. That does not mean the pain cannot be severe. Associated with this type of pain is usually tightness of the muscles that you can actual feel. This can involve muscles of the temple and scalp, muscles of the face, and even muscles of the neck.

Even though this results from TMJ inflammation originally, redness or swelling may not be evident in these other head and neck areas. However, these aches tend to worsen with jaw movements and becomes less when the jaw is rested. This helps distinguish it from other head and neck aches due to tension headaches, disc problems in the neck, etc. Likewise, other TMJ symptoms help define the condition as well. This can include jaw pain, jaw movement problems, and direct tenderness around the jaw itself.

The other rule of thumb is that head and neck aches are usually on the same side as the affected jaw in TMJ. If both jaws are affected, then the aches can be on both sides. Because these head and neck aches are due to spread of inflammation, it makes reasonable sense that the discomfort stays localized to the side of the TMJ disorder. Fortunately, these complaints in TMJ resolve fairly quickly after therapy for TMJ is started. Jaw symptoms tend to take a little longer to improve.

Other TMJ Symptoms: