Is It All in Your Head? | TMJ Disorder (updated 3/15/2019)

Have you suffered from ailments that leave your healthcare team scratching their heads? 

Do you find that nothing seems to relieve the symptoms? 

Have you gone from specialist to specialist looking for answers?   

Have you been told it’s all in your head?

It might be in your head…but not in the way you think. It might be in your jaw, in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), to be precise.

A Small Joint with a Big Function (updated 3/15/2019)

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is unique and amazingly complex. Positioned on either side of your face next to your ears, this two-in-one joint connects your lower jaw to your skull.  Working with several supporting muscles, your TMJ makes a wide range of activities possible, from talking and yawning to chewing and swallowing. Your TMJ moves your jaw backward and forward, up and down, and side-to-side. With so much force riding on two tiny joints the size of marbles, it is not surprising that TMJ dysfunction can wreak havoc. 

What Causes TMJ Disorders?

 There are several causes for TMJ dysfunction, including:

  • Dental issues, including bite misalignment

  • Joint alignment issues or muscle strain

  • Injury to the head or neck

  • Degenerative conditions

  • Chronic Stress or Tension

How it’s All in Your Head

TMJ dysfunction, also referred to as TMD (temporomandibular disorder), can cause a number of strange and painful symptoms that might be overlooked. The bones of the upper spine near the skull can become misaligned quite easily. The body tries to compensate for this imbalance, but even a small alignment problem can put tremendous pressure on nerves and tissues.  Disorders like TMD can result.

Here are 5 ways your TMJ might be trying to get your attention:

1. Headaches

Headaches are the most common symptoms associated with TMJ pain. Roughly 80 percent of people with TMJ problems report suffering from headaches. The TMJ could be to blame if your headaches tend to recur, if they are not alleviated by typical headache treatments, and if they do not respond in the long term to over-the-counter or prescription medicines.  It is possible BOTH TMJ pain and Headaches are effects of a misalignment between the head and neck.

2. Dizziness and Vertigo

Dizziness is the feeling of near-fainting: things may seem fuzzy, dark, and out of focus, and you may feel that you’ve lost consciousness for a moment. Vertigo is the sensation of standing on the heaving deck of a ship. Dizziness and vertigo may appear separately or together in people with TMJ dysfunction.

3. Ear Pain, Fullness, and/or Ringing

The sensation of plugged ears or an earache can be frightening. Doctors often treat this mysterious ear pain with antibiotics or steroids; many sufferers believe allergies are to blame.   Ear pain or fullness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can be caused by nerve irritation from TMJ disorders.  It can also be caused by changes at the base of the skull, or by disfunction in the muscles of the neck.

4. Head, Neck, and/or Shoulder Pain

TMJ issues sometimes manifest as pain in the face, neck, or shoulders. Some sufferers have chronic sinus pain with no signs of infection. Others have episodes of eye pain and pressure, unexplained tooth sensitivity, or mysterious neck and shoulder pain or stiffness. Many nerves in these areas come from the brain stem. When the nerves are irritated by misaligned bones near the skull, they may cause significant pain.

5. Cognitive Difficulties

People with TMJ pain do not simply have jaw pain; they live in chronic pain. Chronic pain can cause trouble with thinking, memory, and even depression or anxiety. If your jaw, neck, and skull are not properly aligned, the blood flow and fluid movement between your head and body slows down. It can cause “brain fog,” a state of mental confusion and difficulty focusing. TMJ syndrome patients were found to score poorly on cognitive tests and used different regions of the brain than normal to complete tasks. 

Which TMJ Symptoms Do YOU Have?
Which TMJ Symptoms Do YOU Have?
Dizziness & Vertigo
Ear Pain, Fullness, and/or Ringing
Head, Neck, and/or Shoulder Pain
Cognitive Difficulties
Name *
Phone *

Taking the Next Step

If you continue to experience jaw pain or any of the symptoms above, and your doctor or dentist has not been able to successfully relieve your pain, it might be time to try a different TMJ headache treatment.  

The providers at Vital Head and Spinal Care are two of only 256 experts worldwide who are certified in NUCCA, a highly specialized, evidence-based chiropractic treatment scientifically proven to relieve pain often associated with TMJ dysfunction. NUCCA is a gentle clinical specialty that restores vital connections between the brain and the body.  Our targeted treatment activates the body’s ability to heal without the forceful twisting and popping sensations associated with traditional chiropractic manipulation.  Even complex cases are co-managed with local dentists, physical therapists, and soft tissue specialists.

To find out if NUCCA is the TMJ headache treatment you've been searching for, please contact Vital Head and Spinal Care today.