“TMJ” refers to the temporomandibular joint, the hinged joint in the jaw that allows us to open and close our mouths. Any dysfunction of the TMJ can be referred to as TMJ disorder, or TMD. TMD has many possible causes, including a misaligned bite, trauma to the TMJ, grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism) and more. TMD symptoms include facial fatigue, headaches, ringing in the ears, and neck, shoulder and back pain.
The Link Between TMD and Back Pain
Your muscles work in combination with each other. It is rare for a single muscle to do all the work without the help of others. When one muscle is not functioning properly, other muscles pick up the slack to compensate for the dysfunctional muscle.
Your TMJ is surrounded by your jaw muscles. If there is added stress or trauma to the TMJ and the surrounding muscles, and they don’t function properly, it is likely that other muscles in the vicinity will compensate by working harder.
For example, a misaligned bite can cause the jaw (including the TMJ) and skull to become imbalanced. This puts added stress on the TMJ and can cause a TMJ disorder. To compensate, the muscles in the neck, shoulders and back — particularly the upper back, but not exclusively — might do more work. In addition, tight and contracted jaw muscles can cause the head and shoulders to tilt forward, which, again, stimulates the neck, shoulder and back muscles to do more work to compensate for the misalignment.
All this added work and stress throughout the neck, shoulder and back muscles can indeed cause pain in these areas.
If you are experiencing back pain that you think might be related to TMD, contact Headache and TMJ Center of New Jersey for help. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ivan F. Stein or his trusted team of TMJ experts, contact Headache and TMJ Center of New Jersey by calling (855) 865-3627.