TMJ-Related Face Pain

If you have TMJ, it can be a powerful source of facial pain. Often, doctors don’t know much about TMJ and might not think of it as a potential cause. Instead, you might be diagnosed with atypical face pain (AFP). If your doctor diagnosed AFP without considering TMJ, you should get tested for TMJ, especially if you have other TMJ symptoms.

TMJ typically causes face discomfort in three ways:

  • Muscle
  • Nerve
  • Referred

People often experience multiple types of together.

Face Muscles

TMJ often causes significant tension in your jaw muscles. This results in muscle pain in these muscles (and in the muscles they partner with–more on this later). Jaw muscles are the largest muscles in your face. They anchor in your cheeks, near your nose, behind your eyes, and in other places. They underlay much of your face, so when they hurt, you might experience it as facial pain.

Nerves in the Face

In addition to muscle, TMJ can trigger nerve pain. Nerves running through the face often weave under or even through your jaw muscles. When your jaw muscles are tense, they can put pressure on your nerves. This can trigger many types, from sharp, electric shocks to deep, slow, burning pain. You might also experience tingling and numbness when your muscles put pressure on nerves.

Referred Pain in the Face

Referred pain is when your brain interprets one area as being in another area. This may seem strange, but it’s actually very common. The signals to the brain don’t have any kind of “caller ID”–your brain interprets them in part based on the nerve they’re coming along and partly on the basis of where the aching is expected to originate. This is the reason why a lot of organ pain feels as if it’s coming from somewhere else. Most famously, this is why heart attack victims often experience throbbing in their left arm or their jaw.

With TMJ, referred discomfort from jaw muscles can feel as if it’s coming from the face, even if the actual source of the ache is a jaw muscle near your ear. Trigger point injections are a good treatment for addressing the source of referred pain.

TMJ-Related Neck Pain

Neck pain related to TMJ is similar to that in your face. It also comes in three types:

  • Muscle
  • Nerve
  • Joint

This soreness overlaps, and you can experience multiple types at once.

Muscle Soreness in the Neck

Neck muscles work with jaw muscles to help support the head. When jaw muscles are out of balance or under stress, they pass this imbalance and strain on to neck muscles. The result is neck tension and pain. You might also notice that it impacts your posture. Your head might tilt to the side or tilt forward rather than remaining upright.

Nerve Pain in the Neck

Nerve pain in the neck is less likely to be related to muscle pressure. Instead, it’s more likely to be linked to your vertebrae. When your neck tilts forward or to the side because TMJ affects your posture, it can put pressure on nerves that emerge from the spinal column. This can lead to tingling and numbness. Because nerves emerging from the spine travel through much of the body, aching and numbness caused in the neck might be felt, or it could be felt far away (such as in the fingers).

Joint Discomfort in the Neck

Your neck has many joints. It’s made up of vertebrae that are stacked on each other. These can get worn down, especially when TMJ is putting additional strain on the cushioning discs between the bones. Wear on these joints can lead to more nerve compression, but it also causes pain in the joints themselves.

Relief for Face and Neck Pain in Detroit

If you are suffering from face and neck pain that you think might be linked to TMJ, let TMJ dentist Dr. Richard Klein and his expert team at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute help. Please call (586) 573-0438 or email us today to request an appointment at our office in Detroit, MI.