On a daily basis we never think about the fact that the head (which contains the jaw and face) is attached to our bodies by the neck. When it comes to understanding facial pain problems, however, the muscles of the neck cannot be forgotten. Not only do these muscles support your head position and therefore the posture of the lower jaw, but also when compromised by tension or muscle contracture they can lead to not just a sore neck, but facial and jaw pain and limitations of jaw motion.
Simply stated, unhappy neck muscles can give rise to headaches, facial pain, jaw problems and tooth pain complaints even though the aching teeth are healthy.
It is very common for patients in NYC and Long Island to come to my office with facial pain, headaches or jaw complaints but no complaints neck pain or pain in the shoulder muscles. Evaluation however uncovers problems in these areas prompting patients to state “I never knew these muscles hurt so much!” As I evaluate your problems, careful attention will be placed in this critical region.
Though in the majority of cases a sore neck can lead to the onset or aggravation of a facial pain and jaw problem, there are a few situations where problems in the jaw and face can create neck tension and muscle tightness. In particular, inflammation specifically in the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ’s) can lead to the tightening of upper neck muscles. With time this tightness can lead to the activation of muscle trigger points, which can generate referred pain to the face, and limitation of jaw motion due to muscle contracture. Once the neck muscles become involved, the management of TMJ problems becomes more difficult.
Also, heavy and persistent night clenching or grinding of the teeth can lead to neck pain and tightness on awakening. It is common for patients that receive oral appliances at night to address clenching or grinding, to report a decrease in neck symptoms particularly when getting up in the morning.