As understanding of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) deepens, we are learning that this tiny joint in the jaw can have widespread effects on the rest of the body. Everything in the body is connected, and when one part develops a problem, it can impact the rest of the body in unexpected ways.
A prime example is pain in the shoulders and back, which is often attributed to stress, an injury or long hours spent hunched over a computer. Some cases of undiagnosed shoulder and back pain are actually caused by problems affecting the TMJ. Only doctors who understand TMJ disorder (termed TMD) as well as Drs. Ivan & Allan Stein at Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey are able to recognize the signs of TMD-induced back or shoulder pain and provide effective solutions.
Although you might be surprised to learn that a dentist may help you overcome excruciating back or shoulder pain, once you understand the relationship between the TMJ, shoulders and back, the connection makes more sense.
Why TMD Causes Shoulder and Back Pain
The muscles and ligaments that support the jaw joint and its ability to bite, chew, talk and breathe are closely interwoven with the muscles and ligaments of the neck, shoulders and back. If a muscle in the jaw becomes overextended or fatigued — as is common with TMJ problems — the other muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and back must compensate. Tight jaw muscles can also cause an abnormal tilting of the head and shoulders, which puts added pressure on the muscles of the neck, shoulders and back and requires them to work harder.
The neck, shoulder and back muscles may become overworked, sore and tender from picking up the slack. Gradually, this muscle strain can cause pain to migrate through the shoulders and upper and lower back.
Address the Source of the Pain
Pain medication can provide temporary relief from the pain, but it does not address the root source. Drs. Stein will examine your jaw to determine whether problems with your TMJ are causing your back or shoulder discomfort. They will ask you about any other symptoms that you may be experiencing — jaw pain, clicking or popping noises when opening your mouth, headaches or ear pain — that may stem from TMJ disorder.
Based on what the doctors learn during the examination and discussion, they can provide a diagnosis. With a diagnosis, our team can make recommendations to rehabilitate your jaw health and reduce or eliminate your pain and discomfort.
Drs. Stein might need to repair or strengthen the muscles supporting your jaw joint. Or, if your upper and lower teeth do not match up correctly and are putting too much pressure on your joint, he might suggest orthodontic or dental work to align your bite. A custom-fitted night guard can protect your joint and the supporting muscles from the strain caused by nighttime grinding or clenching.
At Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey, our team looks at every patient as a unique individual. We know that what has worked for someone else may not necessarily work for your case. We will consult with you to find the right treatment or combination of treatments so you can live a more comfortable life.
Contact Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey Today
Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey has a long history of helping TMJ patients who suffer from chronic pain and do not know why. Please contact our practice today to request a consultation with Dr. Ivan & Allan Stein and find a solution for your needs.