|Facial or head pain can be unbearable. Toothache, migraine or a bad ear infection are just some causes of facial pain. A less known cause of widespread pain in the head, face and upper neck region comes from the temperomandibular (TMJ) or jaw joints. |
These two joints, one either side of the face, are situated on the cheek just in front of the upper part of the ear. TMJ pain is sometimes centred right over the joints. However, because the muscles that work these joints extend over the face, skull and upper neck, pain is often widespread.
The TMJs and their muscles open and close the mouth, switching on and off millions of times every day as we speak, eat, breathe and yawn. The region can become symptomatic gradually through overuse.
Occasionally pain and movement restriction may come on suddenly. In acute cases a little disc of cartilage within the joint gets caught, blocking movement. The joint will need to be manipulated to release the disc; painful, but effective!
If suspicious of TMJ dysfunction it is worth noting what happens to pain while eating or yawning. Perhaps you avoid eating certain foods like biting into a whole apple or chewing steak. A classic symptom is grinding the back teeth while asleep (often noted by or a dentist ones’ bedfellow rather than the TMJ sufferer themselves). Grinding wears down the biting surface of the back teeth and is a sign of excessive jaw muscle activity.