TMJ and Neck Pain: What You Need to Know

TMJ and Neck Pain
Dr. Garrett Stroup. Physical Therapist in Roseburg Area.


Dr. Garrett C. Stroup

DPT, VRC - Owner and Founder

We help athletes and active adults regain control of their injury without expensive surgeries or medications, so they can keep going.


Coping with persistent discomfort poses challenges, and a frequently overlooked origin is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This article will delve into the complex connection betweenTMJ and neck pain, shedding light on the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments.

Anatomy of the Jaw and Neck

To understand the correlation between TMJ and neck pain, it’s crucial to grasp the anatomy of the jaw, neck, jaw bone, and temporal bone. The temporomandibular joint serves a a connection the jawbone to the skull, while the channel supports the head and facilitates movement. Recognizing this intricate interplay, including the role of jaw muscles, is essential for understanding how issues in one area can impact the other.

Causes of TMJ and Neck Pain

Temporomandibular disorders impact 5-12% of the population. Understanding the specific triggers behind TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and neck pain is pivotal for effective prevention and management. Here are five key contributors to these discomforts, including factors like jaw bone and joint dysfunction:

Stress-Induced Tension

Stress significantly influences TMJ and neck pain. The body’s response to stress involves muscle tension, impacting the jaw and neck areas. Chronic stress can intensify existing issues, including muscle pain, and contribute to persistent discomfort.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Nocturnal teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can exert excessive pressure on the temporomandibular joint. This habitual behavior, often occurring during sleep, leads to inflammation, jaw pain, and consequent neck discomfort.

Joint Misalignment

Misalignment in the temporomandibular joint, whether due to genetics, trauma, or habits, is a core factor in TMJ and chronic neck pain. It disrupts the smooth functioning of the complex joint, causing strain that extends to the neck.

Poor Posture

Daily habits, particularly poor head posture, can contribute to imbalances in muscles and tension in the neck and jaw. Correcting head posture is crucial to prevent and alleviate TMJ-related discomfort, as it addresses the root cause of the issue.

Dental Issues and Malocclusion

Problems related to dental health, including malocclusion (improper teeth alignment) or dental infections, directly impact the temporomandibular joint. Issues in the oral cavity can manifest as pain in the jaw and the connected neck region, influencing head position.

Can TMJ cause Neck Pain?

Can TMJ cause Neck Pain?

The relationship between Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and neck pain is bidirectional. Neck pain was linked with TMD 70% of the time. TMJ issues can contribute to neck pain and vice versa. Unraveling this connection helps individuals comprehend the complexity of their symptoms.

TMJ Neck Pain Symptoms and Locations

As per studies, approximately 30% of men and 43% of women experience neck pain at some point in their lives, and the pain tends to intensify with age. Identifying the common symptoms and precise locations of TMJ-related neck pain is pivotal for an accurate diagnosis. Here’s a focused list of five key symptoms and five common areas associated with TMJ neck pain:


Dull Ache: Persistent, dull discomfort in the neck and jaw regions.

Stiffness: Reduced flexibility and movement in the jaw and neck.

Radiating Pain: Discomfort that extends from the jaw to the neck or vice versa.

Headaches: Recurrent headaches, often originating from jaw tension.

Clicking or Popping Sounds: Audible sounds during jaw movement indicate joint issues.


Jaw Joint (Temporomandibular Joint – TMJ): Direct pain in the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull.

Neck Muscles: Discomfort or tension in the neck muscles, especially along the sides.

Base of the Skull: Pain at the back of the head, near the bottom of the skull.

Cheeks and Temples: Facial pain around the cheeks and temples, indicating jaw involvement.

Ear Area: Pain or aching sensations in or around the ears, sometimes mistaken for ear-related issues.

How to Diagnose TMJ Neck Pain?

Diagnosing TMJ-related neck pain requires a comprehensive evaluation by qualified medical professionals. Early detection is crucial for timely intervention. Here’s an overview of the diagnostic procedures:

Clinical Assessment

The healthcare professional begins by collecting a thorough patient history and exploring stress, habits, and past injuries related to TMJ and neck pain. A detailed discussion about the nature and intensity of symptoms provides crucial insights into specific issues.

Physical Examination

Evaluating jaw motion for limitations, discomfort, and clicking sounds, alongside a thorough clinical examination of the neck and facial muscles, helps understand the broader impact of TMJ on surrounding areas.

Imaging Studies

X-rays visualize the temporomandibular joint, aiding in identifying the origin of pain, such as misalignment or arthritis. MRI scans provide detailed information about soft tissues, including muscles and ligaments around the jaw and neck.

Dental Examination

The alignment of the teeth and the bite is crucial. Dental examinations, often involving consultation with an oral surgeon, help identify malocclusion or other dental issues contributing to TMJ-related orofacial pain.

Specialized Tests

Electromyography measures muscle electrical activity during jaw movements, identifying imbalances. Joint Vibration Analysis assesses temporomandibular joint function using vibrations, aiding in detecting irregularities.

Treatment for TMJ Neck Pain

tmj care

Effectively managing TMJ-related neck pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction involves a targeted approach, combining specific strategies for optimal relief from painful symptoms. Here are four key treatment avenues, guided by diagnostic criteria, emphasizing non-invasive treatments to enhance effectiveness and minimize invasiveness.

Lifestyle Adjustments: Incorporate mindfulness, meditation, or yoga to manage stress, a common contributor to TMJ-related discomfort and limited range of motion. Correcting posture during daily activities and sleep helps alleviate strain on the neck and jaw.

Physical Therapy: Specific exercises enhance jaw mobility, strengthen supporting muscles, and reduce tension. Hands-on techniques, part of conservative therapies, address muscle imbalances and promote optimal joint function, effectively alleviating neck symptoms.

Dental Interventions: Correct dental misalignments or malocclusion through orthodontic treatment to reduce TMJ-related muscle spasms. Additionally, using custom-fitted mouthguards can further mitigate the effects of teeth grinding during sleep. Consider avoiding chewy foods to minimize strain on the jaw and promote healing.

Medications and Self-Care Practices: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription pain relievers, including muscle relaxants and intra-articular injections, provide effective pain relief for TMJ-related pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Applying heat or ice packs can reduce inflammation and soothe discomfort.

Prevention Tips for TMJ Neck Pain

Taking proactive measures to prevent TMJ-related neck pain is crucial for long-term well-being. Implementing practical tips and lifestyle adjustments can significantly reduce the likelihood of recurring discomfort. Here are detailed prevention strategies:

Stress Management: Use mindfulness or deep breathing to ease stress, a joint TMJ, and neck pain trigger. Integrate regular physical activity for overall stress reduction, recognizing the importance of addressing both emotional and clinical signs of distress.

Ergonomic Practices: Mindfulness or deep breathing helps alleviate stress, a joint TMJ, and neck pain trigger. Regular physical activity promotes stress reduction. Ensure a supportive pillow and maintain a neutral spine position during sleep to minimize jaw and neck stress.

Dietary Considerations: Include soft foods to minimize excessive jaw movement and reduce the risk of strain. Avoid excessively chewy or hard foods that can contribute to jaw discomfort, particularly when opening the mouth wide.

Oral Health Practices: Regular checkups ensure proper dental alignment. Use oral splints or a custom-fitted mouthguard to prevent strain on the jaw and cervical muscles for teeth-grinding, especially during sleep.

When to seek medical help?

Identifying when to seek medical assistance for effective management of temporomandibular pain dysfunction syndrome and TMJ-related neck pain. Here are five key indicators that necessitate prompt attention from healthcare professionals exploring standard treatment options:

Persistent and Intense Pain: Unrelenting and severe pain in the jaw and neck, potentially indicating chronic pain syndrome or nerve pain.

Limited Jaw Movement: Having difficulty opening or closing the mouth or noticeable limitations in jaw movement, indicating potential involvement of the trigeminal nerve.

Chronic Headaches or Migraines: Frequent and severe headaches or migraines associated with jaw and neck discomfort, emphasizing the connection between neck pain and headaches.

Ear Pain or Ringing: Unexplained ear pain or ringing accompanied by jaw and neck discomfort, signaling the need for exploration into disorder treatment modality.

Worsening Symptoms Despite Self-Care: Symptoms worsen over time despite consistent self-care practices, indicating potential concerns for long-term treatment outcomes.

Suffering pain from TMJ? Reach out to OrMobility Physical Therapy & Performance

In conclusion, understanding the link between TMJ, neck pain, and TMJ headaches is crucial for effective management. Individuals can proactively work towards a pain-free life by exploring causes, symptoms, and treatment options. For personalized care and relief at your doorstep, OrMobility Physical Therapy & Performance, specializing in physical therapy in Roseburg, Oregon, is a practical solution for those enduring TMJ-related neck pain.


Q1: What does neck pain from TMJ feel like?

A1: TMJ neck pain can manifest as a dull ache, stiffness, or radiating discomfort. Individuals may also experience headaches and difficulty in jaw movement, indicating potential chronic symptoms and varying levels of muscle tenderness.

Q2: How do you treat TMJ in the neck?

A2: Treatment approaches for TMJ-related neck pain encompass lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgical interventions. Consulting a healthcare professional to discuss botulinum toxin as a treatment option for personalized advice.

Q3: How do you relax your neck for TMJ?

A3: Practicing relaxation techniques, such as gentle neck stretches, hot/cold therapy, and stress management, can serve as an effective therapy for treatment, helping alleviate TMJ-related neck tension.

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