How Does Stress + Anxiety Connect to TMJ Headaches?

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Stress and anxiety is a common reaction to high-intensity situations and overwhelming events, like the COVID-19 pandemic. While stress can be a healthy response to critical circumstances, when experienced chronically, it can have detrimental effects on our health, inducing many physical symptoms, such as headaches and migraines. There are many factors that can trigger a nasty headache however, it’s easy to overlook how your temporomandibular joint (TMJ comes into play. That throbbing pain in your head and face may be a TMJ headache.

Relationship Between Stress and TMJ Headaches

The feeling of anxiety and stress may lead you to unconsciously grind your teeth and clench your jaw either at night while asleep or during the day. This is a condition known as bruxism. Bruxism mostly occurs during sleep. It can cause locking in the TMJ joint, exerting excessive pressure on your jaw joint and eventually leading to TMJ disorder.

TMJ disorder causes feelings of tenderness, pain, and discomfort in the jaw and face area. It can also cause headaches and migraine pains.

Symptoms of TMJ/TMJ Headaches and Migraines

Headaches can be a very most common symptom of TMJ disorder. This is because the inflammation in the TMJ joint spreads to other muscles and tissues in the head, causing spasms. Additional symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

1. Ear Pain

The ear is close to the jaw joint, so it is one of the first to be affected by the disorder. The inflammation of the TMJ can quickly spread to the ears causing a dull ache but sometimes the pain becomes sharp. Pain in your ear resulting from TMJ disorder often intensifies with every jaw movement.

Along with pain, you might feel tenderness around your ear, a buzzing or ringing sound inside of your ear.

2. Neck and Shoulder Pain

Patients with TMJ disorder might develop neck and shoulder pains. This is because the swelling in the jaw  joint can spread to muscles and nerves around the head, causing them to feel strained and sore. 

To confirm that your neck and shoulder pain results from TMJ disorder, pay close attention to how you feel when you move your jaw. If the pain gets worse when you move your jaw, and less painful when your jaw is at rest, this pain could be a result of TMJ disorder.

3. Jaw Pain and Restricted Mouth Movement

Most people experiencing TMJ disorder have difficulty moving their mouths. This due to the misalignment or the deterioration of the jaw joint. When the jaw joint is not in its proper position, one side of the jaw may reach its motion capacity before the other. This can cause pain and restrict the mouth from moving the way it usually would.

Similar symptoms would include locking of the jaw and popping and/or clicking noises that accompany jaw movements. 

Get a Personalized Solution to Your TMJ Headaches

Are you experiencing one or all of the symptoms of TMJ headache listed above? Would you like to get a personalized solution to your TMJ headache from a dentist in downtown Calgary?

Dr. Westersund is a dentist in downtown Calgary who would love to collaborate with you in developing a personalized solution for your TMJ headache. Dentalife is currently conducting TMJ/TMD consultations in-office and online. If you’re visiting the clinic, parking won’t be an issue. The clinic currently has free parking spots available for patients.

Take back control of your health and stop living  in pain. Contact Dr. Westersund by phone (403-262-9898) or book an appointment online.




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