The Connection between Sore Neck & Facial Pain
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.
Your Sore Neck can lead to Other Problems
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.
Recent animal studies in the laboratory have shown that if there is persistent inflammation in the neck muscles, maintaining mouth opening becomes difficult and chewing leads to pain levels that discourages eating even when hunger is present. In humans, this information helps explain why people that have chronic neck pain often develop jaw pain and odd toothache pains following time spent in the dental chair with their mouth open.
Jaw problems can also be the source of neck tension and pain
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 including the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid. 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.
Neck Pain Relief
Unquestionably then, there is an intimate relationship between neck pain and the facial and jaw structures and my evaluations are designed to fully evaluate this entire region. Once the problem area in the neck is identified, treatments can range from exercises, strengthening programs, improved work ergonomics, modification of sleep postures and pillows, medications and injection or acupuncture techniques.
If the cause of your sore neck relates to stress and emotions, efforts to address these concerns will be put in place as well.
A Sore Neck is Treatable!
As you can see, with proper evaluation the ability to recover (though not guaranteed) is very likely!!!!