My TMJ is a Pain in the Neck

Do you ever wonder where your neck pain is coming from?  Have you seen multiple doctors and they can’t give you a straight answer?  Can TMJ cause neck pain? Yes it can, and it may be that the underlying cause of the pain is in fact a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, which is usually overlooked. When your jaw bone becomes dislocated, the surrounding muscles go into spasm.  This includes your neck muscles.  Symptoms can include not just neck pain, but stiffness, wry neck/torticollis, numbness in the neck, inability to turn the head left or right, joint clicking sounds during neck movement, arthritis in the neck, etc.

can tmj cause neck pain

TMJ and neck pain may be due to the degeneration of muscles, ligaments and bone, or through congenital abnormalities in the joint. Disorders that result in hypermobility may also lead to patients experiencing multiple jaw dislocations and, over time, repeated damage to the bones and ligaments. If left untreated, TMD may also result in degeneration of the jaw, jaw dislocation and neck pain.

The muscles controlling the movement of the jaw (masseter, temporalis, medial & lateral pterygoids) are also a possible cause of jaw and TMJ neck pain.  Severe cramping in the jaw muscles can pull the TMJ out of position, and weakened muscles can cause the joint to move.

In addition to the bones and ligaments that make up the TMJ, there is also a blood supply from one of the most major arteries of the head (temporal artery). The nerves here are responsible for providing signals for movement in the TMJ.  The severe jaw and neck pain can result from damage to facial nerves.

Posture is another huge influence on the head and neck.  Certain postural changes and imbalances can have adverse effects.  One factor that has become all too common is the fact that most people’s jobs today require hours upon hours of computer work.  This requires that the arms and head be positioned more anterior to the rest of the body for extended periods of time.  Over time, this causes the cervical muscles to contract, which leads to chronic achiness and eventual chronic TMJ pain.

Click on the following link to read about the relationship between computer use and TMJ disorders


Examples of Good vs. Bad Posture:

Good Posture Bad Posture
Head erect, chin in Head forward or backward, or tilted
Chest up, but not exaggerated Chest down, shoulders turned in/down
Upper back slightly backward Upper back forward and rounded
Lower back slightly forward Lower back arched
Neutral position of hips/pelvis Hips/pelvis backward or forward
Knees relaxed (easy) Knees forward or backward or bent


Another cause of neck pain would be a motor vehicle accident (whiplash), or other type of traumatic TMJ injury (sports injury, punch in the face, etc).  Pain and stiffness may be present hours or days after an injury.  Symptoms immediately following an accident include muscle strain, loss of range of motion and pain. The nature of the pain varies, and can worsen with fatigue.


chronic tmj pain

For patients who have suffered a serious accident like this, chances are they have dislocated their jaw (bilaterally or unilaterally).  In addition to physical therapy, treatment with an intraoral orthotic will most likely benefit the patient.  This orthotic addresses the jaw dislocation and aims to conservatively treat the patient.

If you have any questions about your neck pain and think it may be related to your jaw, please contact Dr. Klein and schedule your consultation today (586) 573 – 0438.


Wiesel, S., Boden, S., Borenstein, D., Feffer, M. Neck Pain: 2nd Edition, 1992.

Scherping, S., Boden, S., Borenstein, D., Wiesel, S. Neck Pain: 3rd Edition, 2000.

Fernandez CE, Amiri A, Jaime J, Delaney P. The relationship of whiplash injury and temporomandibular disorders: a narrative literature review. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2009;8(4):171-186.

Silveira A, Gadotti IC, Armijo-Olivo S, Biasotto-Gonzalez DA, Magee D. Jaw Dysfunction Is Associated with Neck Disability and Muscle Tenderness in Subjects with and without Chronic Temporomandibular Disorders. BioMed Research International. 2015;2015:512792.

Warfel, John. The Head, Neck & Trunk: 5th Edition, 1985.