Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck and jaw pain?
You may suffer from TMJ disorder. TMJ can cause neck pain, headaches, earaches, and more.
Fortunately, you can find relief through simple at-home remedies and lifestyle changes. Knowing what prompts your neck pain is the first step toward relief. Read on to discover how to relieve neck pain from TMJ.
What Is TMJ and How Does It Cause Neck Pain?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint – the hinge connecting your jaw bone to your skull. TMJ issues can lead to neck pain in a few key ways.
TMJ pain causes the muscles around the jaw and neck to tense up. Prolonged tightness triggers muscle spasms and stiffness.
Clenching because of TMJ discomfort can make you hunch your neck and shoulders. Poor posture strains the neck.
Nerves in the jaw joint also run into the neck. TMJ inflammation irritates these nerves, radiating pain into the neck.
Reduced Range of Motion
TMJ tightness restricts how far you can move your neck and head. Limited mobility leads to neck stiffness.
Causes of TMJ
TMJ disorders can arise from several factors. Often, they result from issues within the joint itself, such as a displaced disc, arthritis, or wear and tear on the joint cartilage.
Other times, muscle tension and misalignment in the jaw or neck because of stress, teeth grinding (bruxism), or clenching can exacerbate TMJ neck pain symptoms.
Certain habits, injuries, or genetic conditions can predispose an individual to TMJ problems, making it important to identify and mitigate these risk factors when seeking relief.
Alternate Hot & Cold Therapy
One of the simplest ways to relieve neck pain from TMJ is using heat. Heat helps relax tense muscles and increase blood flow. This eases pain and promotes healing.
Try using a heating pad or hot compress on your jaw and neck for 10-15 minutes a few times daily.
You can also soak in a warm bath or get a professional massage. The soothing heat will provide rapid relief.
While heat helps muscles relax, cold therapy reduces inflammation that can trigger neck pain. Icing your jaw and neck can provide pain relief and prevent flare-ups.
Try using an ice pack or cold compress on your jaw and neck for 10-15 minutes several times per day. You can also massage the area with an ice cube. The cooling effect helps calm irritation.
Do TMJ Stretches and Exercises
Specific stretches and exercises can help regain your jaw and neck range of motion. This reduces tightness and tension, leading to pain.
Here are some easy TMJ stretches to try.
- Stretch your neck from side to side (avoid overextending)
- Tilt your head forward, then backward
- Open your mouth wide, hold for 5 seconds, then relax
- Place your palm under your chin and push your head against the resistance
Aim to do these stretches 2-3 times per day. Remember to be gentle and don’t overextend. You’ll notice increased mobility and less pain.
Reduce Teeth Clenching and Grinding at Night
Clenching or grinding your teeth at night also strains the TMJ joint and neck muscles. This can lead to morning pain.
Try using a night guard or mouthpiece to protect your teeth during sleep.
You can also try relaxation techniques before bed, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of teeth grinding.
Managing stress throughout the day can also help prevent nighttime teeth clenching and grinding.
Improve sleep quality by managing stress and sticking to a schedule. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and big meals before bed, as these increase grinding.
Improve Your Posture
As mentioned earlier, poor posture is a top culprit behind TMJ-related neck pain.
Slouching strains the neck and compresses nerves, leading to muscle tightness and discomfort.
Try to improve your posture, especially when sitting or standing for long periods. Align your ears over your shoulders, keep your chin tucked, and avoid hunching.
You can also use braces or supports to help maintain good posture. Proper alignment takes the pressure off your neck.
Take Anti-Inflammatory Medication
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can ease neck pain and swelling. NSAIDs block inflammatory chemicals that cause discomfort and stiffness.
When neck pain flares up, take an NSAID as directed on the label. This provides short-term relief as you pursue other TMJ neck pain treatments.
Practice Stress Management
Stress and anxiety prompt you to clench your jaw more, which strains the TMJ joint and neck muscles.
Make stress management a priority through relaxation practices like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and positive thinking. This reduces jaw tension and further neck pain.
Seek Physical Therapy
For moderate or severe neck pain, visiting a physical therapist can help. They offer specialized TMJ and neck exercises, joint mobilization, ultrasound therapy, and more.
Physical therapy aims to improve mobility, strengthen muscles, correct posture, and retrain the jaw joint. This provides lasting relief from neck discomfort.
Seek Treatment From an Orthopedist
For severe, chronic neck pain related to TMJ dysfunction, consulting an orthopedic doctor can help. An orthopedist specializes in musculoskeletal conditions.
An orthopedist may recommend:
- Prescription medication – Stronger NSAIDs or muscle relaxers can relieve intense TMJ and neck pain
- Jaw splint or mouth guard – Custom dental devices realign the jaw and prevent clenching and grinding to reduce strain
- Trigger point injections – Numbing agents and steroids injected into tight neck muscles give immediate, short-term relief
- Joint injections – Doctors can inject corticosteroids right into the TMJ joint to reduce inflammation
- Surgery – Arthroscopy or disc repositioning may be necessary for significant joint damage or disc displacement
If conservative efforts fail, an orthopedic doctor like Interventional Orthopedics of Washington can provide prescription-strength medication and advanced treatments like injections or surgery.
Discover How to Relieve Neck Pain from TMJ
With time and patience, you can find the best solution for your unique needs and live a life free of discomfort.
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed, as many treatments can provide lasting relief from this common condition.
Keep trying out different techniques and strategies until you find out how to relieve neck pain from TMJ. Find more tips on improving your quality of life by browsing the rest of our Health section today!