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Facts about Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction Syndrome and Related Headache, Neck Pain, Jaw & Face Pain

TMJ Pain

TMJ is also known by many other names, including CMD (craniomandibular dysfunction), MPD (myofascial pain dysfunction) TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction). Don’t let all of these terms confuse you -- they all refer to the same problem. Simply put, TMJ is a pain syndrome that leads to some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Aching or stiff neck
  • Aching or stiff shoulders
  • Backaches
  • Earaches, ear fullness, ringing in the ears, or pain associated with the ears
  • Jaw pain
  • Tooth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Popping or clicking in the jaw joint
  • Facial pain
  • Numbness in the fingers and toes
  • Vertigo (dizziness)
  • Undiagnosable tooth pain

By far the most common symptom of TMJ is headache. As a result, TMJ is often confused with Migraine. Once a diagnosis of Migraine is made, patients often receive treatment that includes the use of strong (and often highly addictive) pain medications. Yet when their problem isn’t resolved, they can experience great frustration and may eventually resign themselves to a lifetime of pain believing that there is no solution available.

Causes of TMJ Symptoms

TMJ symptoms are usually caused by spasms or charley horses, in the muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and back. The spasms are most commonly triggered by:

  • Misalignment (malocclusion) between the way the teeth fit together and the way the temporomandibular or jaw joint wants them to fit. Although this discrepancy can be incredibly small (as little as .001 inch), the body tries to automatically adjust and compensate for it, which leads to spasms in the muscles around the jaw joint and those that support the head and neck.
  • Auto accidents, sports injuries or whiplash injuries

While most experts agree that the most frequent cause of head and neck pain is muscle spasm, there is limited awareness of the severe pain that these spasms can create. Since muscle spasms do not show up on X-rays, MRIs, or create changes in the laboratory tests that are typically ordered, the diagnosis of migraine is often mistakenly made.

With this lack of understanding, the TMJ patient is often forced to endure a lifetime of suffering and the side effects of powerful narcotic pain medications. Fortunately, Dr. Goldman has developed a proven method to evaluate and treat the muscle spasms that cause TMJ.

About the temporomandibular joint and related muscles

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. You can feel it work by placing your fingers just in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth. Although this disease is called TMJ, it typically has little to do with the joint itself, but occurs in the muscles that control the jaws and those that support the head and neck. These muscles have the ability to refer pain to other areas of your head and neck, including in and behind your eyes.

The balance of your head upon your spinal column (neck and back) is also controlled by the contraction of muscles. When these muscles go into spasm, the result is usually head and or neck pain. Because the muscles of the head and neck play a major role in balancing the rest of the muscles along the spine, back pain and other seemingly unrelated symptoms are often seen as a result of TMJ.

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