Bet you didn’t know that the inner ear is one of the most complicated systems in the entire body. It’s not only instrumental in detecting sound, but also in your send of balance and spatial orientation.
… And when something is off kilter in your inner ear, you better believe you’re gonna feel it.
The Intricacies of the Inner Ear
Your inner ear is home to the vestibular system — which coordinates balance and movement, and keeps you upright. The system operates this way by filling a network of canals in the ear with fluid. The hairs that line these canals are stimulated by the fluid, and relay information to your brain when the fluid moves.
When this system isn’t functioning as they should, your brain might be receiving or interpreting those signals incorrectly. Vertigo is a clear sign that something is being lost in translation between the inner ear and the brain–it usually occurs when messages from the inner ear don’t match messages from the other sources.
Vertigo refers to the feeling of being dizzy or off-balance. It can be caused by anything from trauma to stroke to infection — it could even be a side effect of prescription medication. But there’s one common cause of vertigo that is often overlooked: A TMJ disorder.
The jaw and the inner ear may seem totally unrelated. But when you see the location of the vestibular system and the temporomandibular joint in relation to each other, the relationship becomes clear: They’re right on top of each other!
This means that any misalignment or tension in the jaw joint can easily translate to problems with the inner ear. That’s why 50% of TMJ sufferers experience vertigo, 59% experience ear ringing, and 36% even experience hearing loss as a side effect of TMJ.
Simply put, a TMJ disorder is the misalignment of the jaw, leading to pressure and pain that can start in the jaw itself and stretch all the way down the back and even to the fingertips. When the jaw is forced into a position of tension, the entire body strains to compensate for it. The resulting disorder can cause symptoms like jaw pain, back and neck pain, headaches, and yes, inner ear problems.
Correcting a TMJ Disorder
To treat TMJ, the jaw needs to be brought back to its natural position, where it experiences the least tension. For some people, massage techniques to relax the muscles of the head and face might be enough to correct the issue. For others, a mouthguard can retrain the jaw muscles.
Do you think you might have TMJ? Call Pasadena Pain Management today to make an appointment and speak with our experienced staff about what treatment would be best for you.