Do you suffer from jaw pain that leaves your primary care physician scratching his or her head?
Do you find that nothing seems to relieve your jaw pain symptoms?
Have you been told it’s all in your head?
It might be in your head…but not in the way you think. It might be in your jaw, in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), to be precise.
TMJ dysfunction, also referred to as TMD (temporomandibular disorder), can cause a number of strange and painful symptoms that can be easily overlooked. The bones of the upper spine near the skull can become misaligned quite easily. The body tries to compensate for this imbalance, but even a small alignment problem can put tremendous pressure on nerves and tissues. Disorders like TMD can result.
Here are 5 ways your TMJ might be trying to get your attention:
Headaches are the most common symptoms associated with TMJ pain. Roughly 80 percent of people with TMJ problems report suffering from headaches. The TMJ could be to blame if your headaches tend to recur, if they are not alleviated by typical headache treatments, and if they do not respond in the long term to over-the-counter or prescription medicines. It is possible BOTH TMJ pain and Headaches are effects of a misalignment between the head and neck.
2. Dizziness and Vertigo
Dizziness is the feeling of near-fainting: things may seem fuzzy, dark, and out of focus, and you may feel that you’ve lost consciousness for a moment. Vertigo is the sensation of standing on the heaving deck of a ship. Dizziness and vertigo may appear separately or together in people with TMJ dysfunction.
3. Ear Pain, Fullness, and/or Ringing
The sensation of plugged ears or an earache can be frightening. Doctors often treat this mysterious ear pain with antibiotics or steroids; many sufferers believe allergies are to blame. Ear pain or fullness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can be caused by nerve irritation from TMJ disorders. It can also be caused by changes at the base of the skull, or by disfunction in the muscles of the neck.
4. Head, Neck, and/or Shoulder Pain
TMJ issues sometimes manifest as pain in the face, neck, or shoulders. Some sufferers have chronic sinus pain with no signs of infection. Others have episodes of eye pain and pressure, unexplained tooth sensitivity, or mysterious neck and shoulder pain or stiffness. Many nerves in these areas come from the brain stem. When the nerves are irritated by misaligned bones near the skull, they may cause significant pain.
5. Cognitive Difficulties
People with TMJ pain do not simply have jaw pain; they live in chronic pain. Chronic pain can cause trouble with thinking, memory, and even depression or anxiety. If your jaw, neck, and skull are not properly aligned, the blood flow and fluid movement between your head and body slows down. It can cause “brain fog,” a state of mental confusion and difficulty focusing. TMJ syndrome patients were found to score poorly on cognitive tests and used different regions of the brain than normal to complete tasks.