TMJ Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

TMJ Pain Can Be Quite Painful

Pain can come in many forms. It can affect your body in various ways and in different areas. While lower back pain is the most common cause of chronic pain, people can experience discomfort in other areas of their bodies. One such cause of chronic pain that very few people think about is TMJ pain.

Typically, when people think about chronic pain, they imagine pain in large areas of their body, from their neck and back to their arms and legs. But smaller parts of your body can also experience discomfort. While you might not think about or even know about the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) in your jaw, you use them every day. They help you talk, eat, swallow, and more.

TMJ disorders (also referred to as TMD) can lead to significant pain in your jaw joints and muscles. It can reduce the overall range of motion in your jaw, impacting how you speak and eat. While they seem small, these joints play a large role in your daily life. Fortunately, TMJ pain is only temporary, and you can relieve this pain easily.

At our Frisco pain management clinic, we understand that pain can appear in many forms and affect different parts of your body differently. We also know that no two cases are the same, which is why our team of pain management doctors takes a collaborative approach to help you find pain relief. If you are experiencing TMJ pain or any other chronic pain, contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group today and let us help.

What are the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)?

Not many people think about their temporomandibular joints (much less even know what they are). But you use these joints every day. These joints act as the hinge of your jaw, connecting your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. These are joints right in front of each ear. These joints allow you to open and close your mouth and move it side to side.

These joints allow you to eat, speech, swallow, and much more. If an issue occurs, these functions will be significantly limited. The most common symptom is pain and discomfort, but you could also experience a reduced range of motion, with some people struggling to open their mouth entirely. The most common cause of these issues is TMJ disorders (TMD).

Understanding TMJ Disorders (TMD)

TMJ disorders (TMD) are any issues that occur within your temporomandibular joints. Often, TMD causes significant pain in the joints and muscles in your jaw. Not only does it cause discomfort, but it also affects how your jaw moves, reducing its range of motion. When this occurs, you’ll struggle to open and close your mouth or move it side to side. While that might only seem like a minor inconvenience, it can have larger effects than you think.

First off, if you can’t open your mouth all the way, eating becomes difficult. When you can’t eat, your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. In rare cases, the shape of your face can also change. That is why you must reach out to a pain management doctor to prevent further issues from developing.

TMD Symptoms

As with virtually all pain management conditions, each case of TMD is different. For some, they may only experience minor discomfort. For others, their pain could be severe. While some people’s pain lasts for only a few weeks, others’ pain lasts for several months to even years. Your mouth plays a pivotal part in your overall health. So, if an issue arises, it is best to treat it as soon as possible.

There are several signs and symptoms you should keep an eye out for to catch TMD early, including:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain while chewing, talking, yawning, and swallowing
  • Difficulty chewing or opening and closing your mouth
  • Aching pain in your face
  • Tense or tight jaw muscles
  • Lockjaw
  • TMJ pain in one or both joints
  • Aching pain in one or both ears
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening and closing your mouth
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Toothaches
  • Teeth grinding/clinching

TMD Causes

Healthcare experts aren’t quite sure what causes TMD. Several factors could play a role in developing TMJ pain or increasing your symptoms, some of which include:

  • Genetics
  • Jaw injuries
  • Chronic tooth grinding or jaw clinching
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Erosion or misalignment of discs in the joints of your jaw
  • Misaligned bite
  • Dislocation

Any of these factors can increase your TMJ pain or increase your risk of developing TMD. Diagnosing this condition can be difficult since more than one factor might be at play, which is why you should reach out to a pain management doctor to help pinpoint these issues and find a treatment plan for you.

Treating TMJ Pain 

Once you’ve recognized your symptoms, it’s time to reach out to a dentist or pain management doctor. They will run various tests to diagnose your condition accurately. X-rays can help determine any injuries or damage, while CT scans and MRIs can provide a detailed look at the bones and discs in your jaw while also examining the muscles and tissue surrounding your TMJ.

Your doctor will pair these tests with a physical exam and a review of your medical and dental history. Once diagnosed, your pain management doctors will then begin developing a treatment plan for your particular case.

Some TMD treatments include:

  • Medications (anti-inflammatory OTC medications, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, etc.)
  • Heat/cold therapy
  • Eating soft foods
  • Avoiding bad chewing habits (biting nails, using teeth to open packages, etc.)
  • Practicing relaxation techniques (deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.)
  • Avoiding teeth grinding/clinching
  • Wearing a mouthguard at night
  • Exercises to strengthen jaw muscles
  • Trigger point injections (relaxes jaw muscles and joints, relieving pain)
  • Surgery

Often, your doctor may employ a combination of these treatments to treat your condition. As we said, TMJ pain is not permanent. You can find pain relief quickly.

Contact Our Frisco Pain Management Clinic

TMJ pain can lead to a great deal of pain and discomfort, impacting your jaw’s range of motion and more. Speaking and eating will become difficult. While these cases are not permanent, you should seek treatment quickly to ensure it does not lead to further issues. The pain management doctors at Texas Partners Healthcare Group have the skills and experience necessary to diagnose your condition correctly and develop an effective pain management plan for you. Give our clinic a call today.