TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition involving the overuse of the jaw muscles, damage in the jaw itself and unbalanced activity in the lower and upper jaw resulting to pain. Pain is one of the classical signs of TMJ and most individuals suffering from TMJ experience jaw pain.
Jaw pain from TMJ may result from various mechanisms. First, most jaw pain results from the spasms in the muscles that are responsible for moving the jaw. The temporalis muscle specifically leads to jaw pain because it is located on the side of the head and spreads like a fan towards the lower jaw. When this muscle contracts or leads into spasms, it usually results in pain because of the compression of the surrounding nerves. The pain that results from spasms of the jaw muscles is usually mistaken to be migraine. However, when you look closely, the pain usually arises on the level of the jaw itself and not on the head. Clenching of the teeth can also lead to jaw pain as a result of the severe contraction of the jaw muscles.
Aside from muscle spasms in the jaw, pain also arises from the jaw joint itself. The wear and tear on the jaw joint as a result of degenerative conditions such as arthritis of the jaw can lead to the friction between the connections of the mandible to the maxilla. The damage on the ligaments and cartilage on the jaw leads to a direct contact in the bones leading to friction. This friction can cause inflammatory changes along the joint and subsequently lead to jaw pain. The friction along the jaw bones may also irritate the surrounding nerves leading to more intense pain along the area.
TMJ commonly results in jaw pain, but affected individuals may also suffer from headache and ear pain as a result of referred pain. The nerves along the jaw usually extend to the side of the head and ears leading to pain in these adjacent areas in the head. The presence of headache and ear pain along with jaw pain most probably results from TMJ disorder.
The pain associated with TMJ is commonly moderate to severe. Most patients cannot eat, smile and speak with their jaw pain and these make TMJ a debilitating condition. TMJ pain also tends to be chronic contributing to more sufferings on the affected individuals.
The causes of jaw pain in TMJ are the main points for the diagnosis. Since TMJ disorder may be due to various reasons, looking into the main cause can actually lead to better jaw pain management. For instance, when muscle spasms are seen to be the cause, relieving muscle spasms is the main goal of treatment in order to relieve the symptoms.
Jaw pain is the most common concern in temporomandibular joint disorder so symptomatic relief is very important. Unless the root cause is managed, jaw pain will persist among patients. So to effectively managed TMJ jaw pain, the right diagnosis and treatment regimen are very essential.