How Worry is Related to Orofacial Pain


Worry and anxiety can have a tremendous effect on the body. Your stomach may be “in knots,” your heart rate speeds up, and it can lower your tolerance to pain or make pain feel worse. These are obvious signs of stress and anxiety that most of us have experienced at one time in our lives.

But many people with chronic pain find that the pain itself becomes a cause of worry and anxiety, and it starts taking a toll on everyday life. They worry about whether they will be able to get through their job, commitments, or even be physically able to do what they need to do to function.

For those with orofacial pain specifically, recent research has shown that worrying about the pain itself can actually make it worse. This is where emotional and mental health interventions must be taken in order to break the vicious cycle.

Orofacial Pain is Complex

Research confirms what we have long addressed here at MedCenter TMJ: orofacial pain and TMJ issues cannot be solved with simply a bite splint, heat packs, or pain relievers. Those who grind their teeth or have inflammation do not have a problem that is isolated to the jaw.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) must be addressed with a whole-body approach that includes stress management, emotional well-being, and other factors such as posture, sleeping position, diet, exercise, and more. We recognize that stress is inevitable in today’s busy world, but learning to manage worry and anxiety is possible. We teach our patients stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation, and sometimes refer them to a medical professional who specializes in mental health. We also suggest natural and alternative methods such as essential oils.

If you believe your TMJ pain is causing worry or anxiety that is interfering with your daily life, don’t ignore it – and don’t let others tell you that you just need to “snap out of it.” Managing your mental health is more complex than many people realize. But there are ways to overcome these problems in healthy ways with the help of your health care team.

Contact the office of MedCenter TMJ to learn more about how worry, stress, and anxiety are related to TMD – and how we can help you overcome these issues and get your life back!

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