For people suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ, there are a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Jaw pain is a common indicator of the disorder, as is the tendency to clench or grind teeth. Some people experience popping or clicking sounds when they open and close their mouths.
But despite the fact that TMJ is rooted in the jaw, not all of the symptoms manifest there. In fact, there are plenty of common TMJ symptoms that show up in other areas of the body. These seemingly unrelated symptoms might be confusing and frustrating for sufferers who don’t know that they’re connected to TMJ.
Watch Out for These Whole-Body Symptoms
There are a few surprising symptoms that could be heralds of TMJ. For instance, do you experience vertigo? Vertigo or dizziness are common symptoms of TMJ because the affected joint is directly adjacent to the inner ear, which regulates balance. Issues with the joint of the jaw can put pressure on the inner ear, disrupting the body’s natural sense of balance and resulting in dizziness or the sensation of the world spinning around you.
The positioning of the temporomandibular joint relative to the ear can also affect your hearing, causing tinnitus. Tinnitus is usually explained as a ringing in the ears, but it can also manifest itself with other sounds, such as buzzing, hissing, or clicking. No matter what sound it presents as, tinnitus is another common symptom of TMJ. If your tinnitus changes when you move your jaw, it’s likely that your tinnitus is connected to TMJ.
But TMJ symptoms can go way further than the ears. People with TMJ are four times as likely to report pain and other symptoms, like tingling or numbness, in the hands, shoulders, and other joints. Although this isn’t a very common TMJ symptom, the pressure that the disorder puts on the jaw can displace vertebrae in the neck, putting pressure on the nerves that extend to your hands and fingers.
By that same token, pain in the face, neck, back, and shoulders can also result from bite problems. Sometimes symptoms like this are a result of “referred pain,” when pressure on your nerves tricks your brain into thinking the pain is coming from wherever those nerves connect to. Other times, an imbalanced spine or out-of-place jaw might be displacing undue stress onto other muscles.
Last but not least, chronic headaches and even migraines can be a debilitating side effect of TMJ. The tension that the temporomandibular joint exerts on the face, neck, and spine can be a trigger for migraines in some people. This symptom in particular can plague people for years without leading to an accurate diagnosis, since migraines are so poorly understood and can be triggered by a wide variety of things.
Are Your Symptoms Related to TMJ?
Some people suffer from many of these symptoms without realizing they’re all related. If you suffer from some of the symptoms listed here, you should see a neuromuscular dentist who can help you determine if you have TMJ. TMJ treatment could relieve your other symptoms.