TMJ Disorder and Neck Pain

TMJ Disorder and Neck Pain Blog  TMJ TMD Neck pain

Chronic neck pain is a health issue that a large number of patients have difficulty finding effective treatment for. Most doctors do little to address the origin of this chronic issue, instead offering prescriptions for pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. While these medicines may offer a temporary respite from the chronic problem of neck pain, they don’t offer a lasting solution. If you’re searching for a true solution to your neck pain, you should learn about temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and the effect it can have upon your neck health and function.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder & Your Neck

The issue of TMD is fairly prevalent, and it can develop at any point in a person’s lifespan. TMD primarily affects the proper positioning and functioning of the jaw joint. People who suffer from this disorder often experience the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness and discomfort of the jaw
  • Cracking sounds when opening the jaw
  • Pain in the cheek and other areas of the face
  • Regular headaches

A majority of people with TMD also experience chronic neck pain. Studies of this anatomical region have revealed that the jaw muscles do not work independently of those in the neck. In fact, any movement of the jaw also uses muscles in the neck, so any misalignment found in the temporomandibular joint will produce improper posture and motion in this entire region. Due to reciprocity of the interaction between these regions, it’s clear to see why TMD can be a common root cause of chronic neck pain.

What Causes TMD?

TMD is a disorder that can develop suddenly due a trauma, or it may have a delayed onset after an injury. Some of the common causes of this disorder include:

  • Injury to the teeth or mouth, such as a sudden impact
  • Whiplash
  • Grinding of the teeth
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Poor posture
  • Arthritis or other inflammation
  • Habits such as excessive gum chewing, nut cracking or chewing ice

A majority of patients with this syndrome are female, so researchers are also trying to understand if there may be a hormonal component that causes this gender disparity. Since many of the causes of TMD become the symptoms of the disorder, such as teeth grinding and poor posture, a comprehensive and integrative course of treatment and therapy is required in order to effectively treat this painful condition.

Chiropractic Care – Treating Neck Pain by Addressing TMD

The presence of TMD often causes sufferers to habitually clench their jaw in order to obtain an alignment that doesn’t cause undue pressure and obstruction to the structures of the mouth. This clenching causes persistent muscle tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders, thus creating an imbalance in posture.

Chiropractic care addresses these misalignments by encouraging proper posture through treatments such as:

  • Vertebral readjustments
  • Physical therapy that aims to improve muscle tone and function
  • Massage to decrease muscle tension
  • Ergonomic counseling to create environments that foster proper posture

Oftentimes, patients who have suffered from chronic neck pain do not realize that it is directly related to TMD. Many people find a great degree of relief following just their first treatment, and continued therapy works towards building a healthful posture and ensuring harmonious muscle function. Many people who receive chiropractic care to address their problem of TMD enjoy:

  • Decreased fatigue
  • Improved state of mind and emotional health
  • Increased ability to participate in physical activities

Chiropractic care may help to address the underlying origin of your neck pain without resorting to harmful pharmaceuticals, painful anti-inflammatory trigger-point injections or surgery. By considering the human body as an interconnected system of musculature and skeletal relationships, the field of chiropractic care offers evidence-based and effective treatments to help eradicate the causes of chronic neck pain.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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