Two Types of TMJ Pain Explained

senior,portrait,Woman,Sixties,Cheerful,Happy,Smiling,Friendly,HaWhen a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) flares up and causes pain, the number one goal is to find relief. However, the answer could lie in the pain itself. There are actually different types of TMD-related pain, which can provide clues into the cause of your disorder and the diagnosis.

Let’s take a look at two types of pain that can develop from TMD to see how they affect diagnosis and treatment.

Myofascial Pain Disorder Explained

Myofascial Pain Disorder (MPD) is a localized, regional or generalized pain that is usually most notable in the jaw closing muscles. The pain, which can range from mild to severe, can occur while the muscles are at rest or while the mandibular is functioning.

Signs/Symptoms of MPD

  • Dull, aching pain
  • Pain that is more evident in the morning or evening
  • Limited movement of the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain

Causes of MPD

A number of things can contribute to the development of MPD. These include:

  • Environmental conditions
  • Emotional or psychological state
  • Overloading the jaw by clenching
  • Altered pain regulating mechanisms
  • Generalized muscle pain disorder – causes more generalized MPD
  • Trauma

Diagnosis of MPD

A TMD dentist will use a number of criteria to determine what type of pain you have and what the likely source is for the pain. Criteria for the diagnosis of MPD typically includes:

  • Examining your health history
  • Determining where the pain is occurring, when it occurs and the intensity
  • Testing the masticatory muscles
  • Testing mandibular movement both assisted and unassisted
  • Imaging of maxillofacial structures

TMJ Arthralgia Explained

TMJ Arthralgia is a decidedly different pain. It is more localized to the jaw joint than MPD and is most evident while the TMJ is functioning. This pain typically ranges from moderate to severe.

Signs/Symptoms of TMJ Arthralgia

  • Sharp, localized pain
  • Typically felt only in the TMJ and ear region
  • Limited TMJ functionality and movement

Causes of TMJ Arthralgia

The cause of TMJ Arthralgia isn’t as varied as MPD, usually manifesting from a physical source:

  • Overloading of the temporomandibular joint
  • Dysfunctional or displaced articular disk or other structure within the joint
  • Trauma

Diagnosis of TMJ Arthralgia

The criteria for determining if TMJ Arthralgia is present are very similar to MPD testing.

  • Examining your health history
  • Determining where the pain is occurring, when it occurs and the intensity
  • Testing the TMJ
  • Testing mandibular movement both assisted and unassisted
  • Testing left and right movement of the TMJ
  • Testing protrusion movements of the TMJ
  • Imaging of maxillofacial structures

Before you can treat and manage pain you have to find the source of it, because pain is really just a symptom of another underlying problem. Dr. Auvenshine and Dr. Pettit use a variety of means to test and diagnose pain so that the least invasive, most effective treatment plan can be developed. The MedCenter TMJ facility is equipped with the latest technology for diagnosing TMD and the pain that is associated with it, giving patients a more in-depth diagnosis and better solutions.


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