On a routine basis I am asked whether or not stress could be responsible for the onset of a patient’s facial pain. The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!” but there are three things to understand in order to appreciate how this occurs and why it is so common.
- Aside from toothache pain, the most common reason that people experience facial pain is muscle strain.
- Muscle strain that lingers gives rise to symptoms such as pain and or restrictions in movement.
- The muscle pain and malfunction that we see occurs as a result of subtle changes in the chemical environment of a muscle and this most often influenced by a stressed brain.
This is What Happens
When you are under stress for a long period of time, or when your emotional world is characterized by anger, sadness, loneliness, loss of control, worry, and anxiety (to name just a few), the brain becomes understandably upset. As a result, the brain is unable to provide the exquisite control over blood flow, muscle tension, and nerve discharge that are essential for muscle comfort. Loss of this control leads to an accumulation of irritating chemicals in your muscles like lactic acid, and others that leads to pain and muscle tightening.
In the presence of this irritating chemical environment the nerves that run through your muscles fire excessively and pain along with muscle tightening result. In essence a brain under emotional siege, sets the stage for muscles to falter.
2 More Things to Understand
- With ongoing emotional turmoil it is likely that both the quality and quantity of your sleep will suffer. As a consequence your muscles are more likely to ache, with the experience of muscle tension headaches, facial pain and jaw pain being common.
- A brain under siege commonly leads to learned behaviors and tendencies such as tooth clenching, raised shoulders, furrowed brows, crossed arms, and shallow breathing patterns that can predispose to more pain and a continuous cycle of suffering.