One of the characteristics that make temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) so hard to live with is that the symptoms of the condition rarely stay limited to the jaw. Instead, pain and dysfunction often spill over into other regions of the body, including the head and neck.

We often talk about the types of headaches associated with TMJ, but we don’t often talk about the types of neck pain that TMJ can cause. At Smile Columbia Dentistry, Columbia TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn can help you get relief from TMJ-related symptoms, including neck pain.

frustrated adult man unable to sleep with neck pain

Axial Neck Pain

Axial neck pain is localized to the neck and its structures. Several sources can lead to axial neck pain, including:

  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Ligament sprain
  • Cervical disc degeneration
  • Facet joint dysfunction
  • Vertebra fracture

Muscle strain is the most common source of neck pain. It’s also the type of neck pain most commonly linked to TMJ. A muscle strain occurs when your neck muscles are working too hard, causing them to suffer injury. Muscle injury of this type usually leads to dull, achy pain. Resting your neck, improving your posture, and avoiding positions that are hard on your neck (such as tilting your head forward) can help your neck heal. However, if you have TMJ, the additional stress passed on by your jaw will cause additional strain and pain.

Muscle spasms are sudden, painful contractions of your muscles. The cause of these spasms is often unclear. However, they can be triggered by neck strain or high levels of tension. TMJ-related tension can trigger these. Working with a Columbia TMJ dentist can help relieve muscle strain and muscle spasms.

Ligaments are the tough tissue that connects bones together across the joints. When subjected to sudden levels of force (such as from a whiplash injury related to car accidents), ligaments can stretch or tear. This is a sprain. Sprains cause pain when you move your neck.

Cervical discs are the cushions between your vertebrae. When these break down, it can cause pain in your neck. However, cervical disc degeneration can also cause radicular neck pain.

Facet joints are where the vertebrae in your neck meet. When these joints are damaged, it can cause axial neck pain or radicular neck pain.

If you fracture a vertebra, it can cause axial neck pain or radicular neck pain.

Radicular Pain

Radicular pain is when a nerve root that emerges from the spine gets irritated and causes pain, tingling, or numbness. The pain might be felt in the neck and all the way down the nerve, or the symptoms might be felt only far from the neck.

Radicular pain might be due to poor posture that compresses the nerves on one side of the spine. This might be related to TMJ, in which a jaw imbalance causes the neck to curve in an opposite direction to restore balance in the body.

Other times, radicular pain is related to herniated discs–discs damaged and bulging because of trauma or strain. Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, can irritate the nerves as they emerge from the spine. These conditions are sometimes grouped together under the term spondylosis. Less often, the thickening of neck ligaments or growths in the spine can cause radiculopathy.

Referred Neck Pain

Referred pain is common in TMJ. The pain caused by your jaw might be interpreted by your brain as neck pain or a headache. Columbia TMJ dentist Dr. Hahn can eliminate this type of neck pain with TMJ treatment.

Other times, neck pain might be related to a heart attack or other organ pain that is felt in the neck. If you have other symptoms of a heart attack along with sudden neck pain, seek emergency medical care.

It’s also possible that neck pain might be referred to other places in the body. You might feel it in your shoulder, as a headache, or pain in the back.

Myelopathic Pain

Most often, neck nerve pain results from the compression of nerves as they emerge from the spinal column. However, it’s possible for the spinal cord itself to become compressed inside the spinal column. When this happens, the result is myelopathic pain. This pain might be felt in the neck itself, or it might be felt anywhere connected further down the spine. In other words, essentially anywhere but the head.

Some people develop myelopathy because of an injury or accident. However, it’s most common because of a gradual degenerative condition.

Relief from Neck Pain in Columbia, SC

Many people in Columbia, SC, think they just have to live with this pain. However, it is often possible to get long-lasting relief from neck pain. Many of the most common causes of neck pain are associated with TMJ. Columbia TMJ dentist Dr. Hahn has helped many people get relief from their neck pain, and he may be able to help you.

To learn whether TMJ treatment can relieve your neck pain, please call (803) 781-9090 or use our online form to request a consultation at Smile Columbia Dentistry, located near the intersection of I-26 and Lake Murray Boulevard.