How Stress and Injury can Trigger TMJ Issues

Suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) can add stress to your life—but stress can also influence or even trigger TMJ issues.

One of the toughest realities of having TMJ is that it is a multifactorial problem, meaning there are multiple triggers and causes of the disorder with many of them overlapping and influencing each other in a painful, self-perpetuating cycle.

Everyone has two temporomandibular joints—one on each side of their head. The joints connect the lower jaw to the skull, so it is integral to many daily processes, including chewing, talking, and yawning. Because of their regular use and prominence, damage to these joints can be life-altering and can happen just going about daily life.

Injury Related Causes of TMJ

Aside from issues that crop up due to aging, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, trauma is one of the most common causes of TMJ. Trauma can be divided into two subtypes: microtrauma and macrotrauma.

Microtrauma occurs the same way a river, over the years, splits a rock in two. Microtrauma comes from minor actions, which repeated over time wear down the cartilage and cause inflammation of the membranes surrounding the joint. The most common examples of these are bruxism (teeth grinding) and clenching (jaw tightening). While the occasional incident of either will not cause lasting damage, a long-term habit can lead to pain in either the joint or surrounding muscles and lead to a TMJ diagnosis.

Macro trauma, true to its name, is the result of one seriously damaging incident, such as a punch to the face. Athletes who participate in contact combat sports, especially boxers, often suffer from TMJ caused by macrotrauma, either from jaw dislocation or damage to the cartilage disc holding it in place. Macrotrauma that exacerbates TMJ can also happen due to an accident, or from prolonged dental work when the jaw is stretched open for extended periods.

Stress-Related TMJ Triggers

With microtrauma related causes of TMJ in mind, we ask why people perpetuate these harmful habits. The answer is simple to define, yet challenging to solve: stress. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching often manifest  when people are under immense pressure.

How to Alleviate Stress and Injury Related TMJ Triggers

The application of heat and facial massage are easy solutions to help with TMJ pain. However, these will not always be enough. As stress is frequently a factor, stress-relieving activities such as yoga or meditation might help alleviate TMJ pain.  It will not fix any underlying issues of teeth placement or cartilage wear, but it could help prevent an issue from getting worse.

Time is of the essence when faced with TMJ and other chronic pain problems. Using an at-home treatment kit such as Speed2Treat® Home Healing Kit can mean the difference between short term discomfort and countless years and dollars spent trying to solve a painful problem.

Consulting a specialist, or possibly multiple specialists may be necessary to get to the root of the issue. Head, neck, and jaw pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so it is essential to take it seriously, whatever the cause. Don’t suffer unnecessarily, consult the directory on FaceMyPain to find a TMJ specialist near you.

More Articles

Can bruxism cause headaches? Bruxism is the involuntary grinding, gnashing, or clenching of teeth and it can happen during sleep or while you’re awake. When this grinding or clenching becomes associated with headache symptoms, it’s referred to as a “bruxism headache”. Here’s what you need to know about the different kinds of headaches associated with bruxism and what you can do to get relief.
New jaw pain after dental injection may be from nerve damage, but it’s more likely to be a warning sign of an underlying TMJ injury. This is because nerve damage from an injection is extremely rare, and if it occurs, the presenting symptoms are numbness and tingling, rather than jaw pain. A more common cause of new jaw pain after a dental procedure is sprain/strain to the jaw joint and muscles.
There are many different types of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders, so the best mouth guard for TMJ pain depends on your underlying condition. There are two major sources of TMJ pain; the joint itself and the surrounding muscles. It’s important to know the difference, because the choice for the best TMJ mouth guard is different between the two.
Why do SSRIs cause jaw clenching? While the exact mechanism is unknown, it appears that SSRIs trigger jaw clenching because of their effect on the level of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters control mood, but they also contribute to movement regulation.

Are You Provider or Consumer?