How Shoulder & Neck Pain Relates To Your TMJ

By: Restore TMJ & Sleep Therapy | Published 09/16/2019


Temporomandibular joint disorders are a common cause of neck and shoulder pain. In fact, experts estimate that up to 70 percent of neck problems may be related to dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint.

The complex temporomandibular joint is one of the few joints that allows for lateral and vertical movement. Owing to the complex nature of the joint and the fact that it is connected to many musculofascial muscles, a TMD can cause pain in many areas, including your neck, shoulders, and even your lower back.

Other common symptoms include:

Jaw pain
Sore neck and shoulder
Ear pain or ear fullness
Pain behind the eyes
Headaches or migraines
Popping or clicking in the joint
Limited range of motion in the jaw
Fortunately, Dr. Phillips has years of experience treating complex TMJ disorders. To learn more about TMDs click here.

Can TMD Cause Pain in Your Shoulders and Neck?
A temporomandibular joint disorder can be debilitating. Jaw pain and lockjaw can make it difficult to chew or talk. Nagging headaches are also common. So too is neck and shoulder pain.

Many of the muscles in the maxillofacial, neck, and shoulder regions are intricately connected. The complex TMJ system of muscles, joints, and bones allows you to talk, chew, turn your head, and more.

A problem in one muscle or joint can affect other muscles and joints. Thus, an injury, misalignment, or a host of other jaw issues could also result in pain in your neck and shoulders.

TMDs often fail to heal on their own and over time your condition could worsen. A sore jaw could be followed by headaches, or stiffness and soreness in your neck and shoulders. The resulting pain and discomfort could make it difficult to enjoy a good quality of life if left untreated.

Neck and Shoulder Related TMD Symptoms
So how can you tell if your neck and shoulder pain is the result of a TMD? These disorders can be difficult to diagnose and a diagnosis from an orofacial pain specialist is often required. TMDs share symptoms with many other conditions, and as a result, can be easily misdiagnosed.

At the very least, you can watch for troubling symptoms. TMDs normally start with a dysfunction in either the temporomandibular joint itself or the muscles directly connected to it.

Since our muscles are interconnected, the dysfunction can quickly spread, reaching as far as your lower back. Regardless, since TMDs start in or near the jaw, you should check to see if you are suffering from facial pain.

Even if you are suffering from a TMD, you may not notice any pain unless you move your jaw. Try stretching your jaw and moving it from side to side. If pain occurs, it may be due to a TMD. Also, watch for the common symptoms mentioned above.

You can see a more complete list of TMD symptoms here. If you’re suffering from neck and shoulder pain, as well as TMD symptoms, a TMJ disorder may be the cause.

How Can I Treat Neck and Shoulder Pain Caused by a TMD?
Many traditional treatments for neck and shoulder pain may prove ineffective if the pain is ultimately being caused by a TMD. Such treatments may provide temporary relief, but if the underlying condition is not resolved, the pain will most likely return.

TMDs and the resulting symptoms can be treated. Due to the complex interactions of the joint, nerves, and muscles in the temporomandibular joint, it is important to diagnose the correct underlying cause to ensure successful treatment. Fortunately, Dr. Phillips can utilize her extensive experience and education to provide relief.

To resolve the neck and shoulder pain caused by a TMD, you will need to treat the underlying condition itself. Effective TMJ disorder treatments could include:

Custom Orofacial appliances.
Physical therapy.
Hot and cold compresses.
Anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers.
A multifaceted approach will usually prove most effective. By combining custom bite orthotics with physical therapy and hot/cold compresses it’s possible to provide immediate pain relief and long-term healing.

Dr. Phillips utilizes advanced 3D imaging to craft custom orthotics and splints that are customized to your bite. These orthotics are designed to relieve the strain on your trans mandibular joint and muscles, allowing it to heal. Once the joint complex is healed, neck and shoulder pain directly related to the TMD may also heal.

Avoidance therapy can also provide short-term relief. For example, you should avoid hard and chewy foods as they can strain your jaw (and in turn your shoulder and neck muscles). Over-the-counter pain medication can help as well. However, the effectiveness of such drugs tends to decline over time.

In the long run, to treat TMD-related shoulder and neck pain an orofacial pain specialist may be needed.

A TMD is a serious condition and most certainly is not limited to a sore or stiff jaw. TMDs can cause a whole host of problems, including neck, shoulder, and even back pain. You may also suffer headaches, ear pain, have trouble sleeping, and struggle to chew or talk. It’s easy to underestimate just how debilitating a TMJ disorder can be.

Dr. Phillips has treated TMDs for many years and holds a Master’s degree in orofacial pain treatment. She can use her combined experience and education to provide custom TMD treatment and long-lasting relief. So if you are suffering from neck and shoulder pain, along with some of the more common TMD symptoms, contact Dr. Phillips today!


By: Dr. Kathering Phillips

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