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It’s not uncommon to experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as palpitation, sweating, and difficulty breathing. However, what you may not know is that anxiety can also cause jaw pain – while the link between anxiety and jaw pain isn’t fully understood yet, there are a few theories that explain how the two conditions may be interrelated.
Can Anxiety and Stress Add to Jaw Pain?
One theory states that anxiety can lead to clenching or grinding of the teeth (bruxism), which can in turn cause jaw pain. Bruxism is often an unconscious habit that people do when they’re feeling stressed or anxious. If you think you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist about ways to help relieve the symptoms.
Another theory explains that anxiety can cause tension in the face and jaw muscles, which can lead to pain. This is similar to the way anxiety can cause tension headaches. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help to ease muscle tension and relieve jaw pain.
What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ is a condition that affects the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. TMJ can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, and head – and can even lead to problems with chewing, speaking, and sleeping.
There are two main types of TMJ: Myofascial pain and Internal derangement.
Myofascial pain: It is the most common type of TMJ, and is caused by muscle tension and spasms in the jaw. This type of TMJ can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, and massages.
Internal derangement: It is a more serious type of TMJ, and is caused by a dislocation or misalignment of the jaw joint. This type of TMJ can be treated with physical therapy, splints, and surgery.
The Connection Between Anxiety and TMJ
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and each one can have different effects on the body. One of the most common physical effects of anxiety is TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). TMJ is a condition that causes pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles. It can be caused by a number of things, but anxiety is one of the most common triggers for it. However many people have reported the opposite; TMJ itself causes anxiety. The reason behind this is that TMJ disorder can cause headaches, pain, fatigue, and trouble sleeping which eventually leads to inducing anxiousness in the affected.
TMJ Contributing Factors
In most TMJ cases, the causes are unknown but mostly it is trauma to your jaws that can lead to TMJ disorder. Apart from anxiety, there are other factors that can cause TMJ disorder which is as follows:
- Growth disorders
- Bruxism (the habit of grinding your teeth)
- Structural issues of your jaw
- Wearing away of the joint (Erosion)
How to Reduce Stress-Induced Jaw Pain?
When your general physician is unable to offer any fruitful results, and you are still experiencing stress-induced jaw pain, it might be time to put in extra effort on a personal level to reduce the pain. There are certain exercises and tips that you can follow to make jaw pain go away:
- Go to a physiotherapist for jaw exercises. Most physiotherapists tell you a set of exercises that you can easily do either at home or work. Such exercises retrain your jaw muscles and restore your brain’s ability to recognize the correct jaw position and movement.
- At the onset of your jaw pain, avoid resting your face or chin on your hands or more specifically your palm.
- Avoid sleeping with your hand placed directly under either side of your face.
- Do everything that you can to avoid stress triggers.
- Seek professional help to overcome stress and anxiety
- Do not chew gum frequently with one side of your mouth
- Lastly, have regular checkups with your healthcare professional; including your dentist and therapist.
In a world filled with so many external stressors that can trigger your anxiety at any moment of the day, your body responds by transforming anxiousness into physical pain. One of those physical impacts that your body goes through is jaw pain and TMJ disorder. But, there are ways to overcome this painful impact of anxiety and lead a healthy life.