If you have TMJ, you know that your symptoms don’t begin and end with jaw pain. Ear pain makes sense: after all your ear is right there. But as you get farther from your jaw, connections seem less clear. You may experience headaches, neck pain, and even pain in areas far from your jaw.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to convince friends, family, and employers that your pain is connected with diagnosed jaw condition. However, there is objective evidence that these pains are connected to your TMJ.
Looking at Distant TMJ Pain
Researchers recently tested the connection between TMJ and distant pains by examining sensitivity in 40 female subjects, 20 with TMJ and 20 without.
Researchers tested for pain sensitivity in the chewing muscles, neck, and hand using an algometer. An algometer is a kind of pressure meter that is used to test how sensitive you are to pain. It has a probe (or sometimes two) that is pressed up against the skin. The subject then tells when they experience pain. This gives us an objective measure of how tender a person feels in certain areas.
When researchers compared the pain sensitivity of people with and without TMJ, they found that people with TMJ were more sensitive than controls in the jaw, neck, and the hand. Authors noted that the significant difference in sensitivity argued for the clinical importance of the condition.
Chronic Pain Knows no Bounds
A chronic pain condition like TMJ doesn’t just affect the area where it occurs. Instead, its effects spread throughout the body.
Partly, this is because all pain is centered in the brain, and when people experience chronic pain, their brain becomes more sensitive to pain. This means that any signal coming into the brain is more likely to trigger a pain response. But it’s also partly because our body is a single whole, not divided into discrete parts, so TMJ can easily spread through the body. Jaw muscles partner with neck muscles, and dysfunction in the jaw becomes dysfunction in the neck, which leads to misalignment of the spine, which may pinch nerves along the spinal column, including those that serve the hands or even further away.
The good news is that TMJ treatment is equally powerful. When you treat the underlying condition, all the TMJ symptoms that seemed so mysterious can go away, too.
If you would like to learn how TMJ treatment might be able to help you, please call 803-781-9090 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist in Columbia, SC at Smile Columbia Dentistry.