If you’re one of the 10 million Americans suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD for short, you’re probably already aware of the many different types of pain TMD causes. In addition to the jaw pain that is synonymous with TMD (after all, the temporomandibular joint is in the jaw), you may experience pain in other areas of the head and body. But for the millions of estimated undiagnosed TMD patients, their pain may not be an obvious clue. That’s because as TMD sufferers are probably already aware, every case of TMD is different, and the pain isn’t always in the jaw.
Naturally, this complicates diagnosis of TMDs, leading many people to suffer in silence, never knowing what’s really wrong with them. If you haven’t been diagnosed with a TMD but find yourself experiencing pain throughout your upper body, pay attention to these surprising TMD symptoms. You could discover the cause of your unexplained pain!
Pain in the Neck
Having pain in the neck can be, well, a real pain in the neck. If you suffer from frequent neck pain, chances are you’ve tried getting to the bottom of it, to no avail. Countless trips to the chiropractor, massage therapy, MRIs, CT scans and even physical therapy don’t seem to help. So, what’s really going on? Many patients are surprised to learn that their neck pain is actually caused by TMD. That’s because the temporomandibular joint of the jaw is closely connected to the neck. With TMD, many people clench their jaw without even realizing it. When that happens, the muscles of the neck may stiffen, too, causing neck pain that never goes away, because the root cause - the TMD - isn’t being corrected. Now that’s a real pain in the neck!
Do you have less-than-ideal posture? Do you try to stand up straighter but to no avail? Does your posture put pressure on your neck and back? Believe it or not, this bad posture could be caused by a TMD. When our bite is misaligned or we clench our jaw, it can put pressure on the neck and upper back, causing us to stand crookedly or hunch forward. This can cause not only poor posture, but also back pain, trouble sitting or standing for long periods of time, and pressure and strain throughout the rest of the body, thanks to the body overcompensating for the back pain.
Do you ever experience unexplained tinnitus, or ear ringing? Tinnitus can last for weeks or even months, and even though it’s not always painful, it can be enough to drive you mad, make you irritable, prevent you from sleeping and even knock you dangerously off balance. Some patients with tinnitus are surprised to learn that their tinnitus isn’t caused by their ears, but by a TMD! That’s because the temporomandibular joint is located just below the ears- and stress and tension on the TMJ can often affect the eardrum, causing that annoying ringing known as tinnitus.
Headaches and Migraines
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed that people who get migraine headaches are three times more likely to have a TMD. Migraines are often debilitating headaches that are accompanied by nausea, dizziness, seeing colors or aura, and the inability to speak. Whether TMDs are causing the migraines or vice versa is not yet known, but the connection between the two illnesses is undeniable. But even if you don’t get migraines, TMDs still can cause headaches due to the tension and stress put on the jaw. If you find yourself getting frequent, unexplained headaches, a TMD could be to blame.
If you are experiencing these or any other unexplained head, neck or back pain, please give Dr. Lederman’s office a call at 516-882-1764 and schedule a TMD consultation.