The pain of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problem can be frustrating and confusing. Not only can it cause an array of confusing symptoms, but it may seem to come and go mysteriously and without obvious cause.
Most of the time, there’s a reason your TMJ pain is getting better or worse – it’s just difficult to determine why. But with some knowledge of possible triggers as well as proper care from professionals who treat TMJ patients every day, you can learn why your pain flares up and what to do when it does.
Identifying TMJ Pain
Many TMJ problems get confused with other health issues, making them difficult to recognize. While jaw pain may obviously point to your TMJ, other issues are not so clear. Some of the most common symptoms of temporomandibular disorders (TMD) include:
Ear pain or ringing in the ears
Neck, back, and shoulder pain
Clicking and popping sounds in the jaw
Limited movement of the jaw joint
These symptoms can masquerade as other issues such as an ear infection, injury, or illness. But if you familiarize yourself with your TMD symptoms, you’ll be able to narrow down when they happen – and why they’re getting worse.
Reasons for Increased Pain
Once you’ve identified your TMJ symptoms, you need to learn what triggers them. This can help explain why your TMJ pain seems to “come and go,” when in fact, it’s really being caused by something you haven’t considered.
These factors can be different for each individual, and some people will have a combination of triggers. The following are the most common reasons for aggravation of your TMJ:
High stress levels. Emotional stress happens to all of us, but the key is to learn how to manage it. Many people grind their teeth – both at night and during the day – and aren’t aware of it until it starts causing pain or dental problems. In addition, stress can cause headaches and make it more difficult to deal with chronic pain. So if stress has been high in your life lately, there’s a good chance your TMJ pain will be elevated.
Poor quality sleep. Pain from TMD, and any other chronic pain, can be irritated and magnified when you don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can also cause headaches and make you less able to cope with anxiety and stress. Consider how much sleep you’re getting, and whether you wake feeling rested. If your body is fatigued, your TMJ pain may be worse and you’ll feel less able to cope with it.
The wrong mattress or pillow. Not only can an uncomfortable mattress affect your sleep, it can also throw your back and neck into misalignment. This, in turn, can affect your jaw and emphasize your orofacial pain. If your mattress is several years old, it may be time to look into a replacement. If you wake up with a sore back, neck, or hips, consider whether the firmness and support of your mattress and/or pillow needs to be taken into consideration. Proper sleep and alignment of your neck and back is an important part of TMD management.
A cold, flu, or allergies. All of these things can cause headache, but they can also strain your jaw from coughing, sneezing, and mouth breathing. Body aches from illness can also make your TMD feel worse. If your allergies have flared up or you’ve been sick recently, your this may have aggravated your jaw.
Once you identify your TMJ symptoms and what makes them worse, you’ll be able to better manage your TMJ symptoms and understand why they seem to come and go. If you’re living with TMJ pain, contact the compassionate, experienced staff at MedCenter TMJ. Together, we can help you find an effective solution to your TMD symptoms.