New Study: Neck Pain and TMJ Are Related…

By /

neck pain and tmj

We medical providers who see patients with neck pain and jaw problems have known for years that the two are linked. However, it’s always great to see studies that begin to prove what you think you know. A new study now ties neck pain and TMJ together by looking at how the contractions of the muscles that move the jaw are altered in patients with neck pain.

Neck Pain and TMJ

The TMJ is the jaw joint. The joints and surrounding tissues can become sore and painful and can even prevent patients from being able to chew. We commonly see patients with neck pain develop TMJ pain. How does this work?

One theory has been that the muscles of chewing begin to be used as secondary stabilizers of the neck. This means that as the neck stability muscles go off-line, the jaw muscles jump in to help hold the head up. Since they’re not designed to do this, they and the TMJ joint get quickly damaged from excessive wear and tear. If this were really true, we’d expect patients with neck pain to have differences in how their jaw muscles work compared to people without neck problems.

The New Study

As I’ve often said, we’re moving into a new world in medicine. The availability of cheap sensors, massive brain-like computing power, and other technologies will be rewriting how we diagnose and treat disease. One of those big changes will also be in research, as our tools to understand the body get better and better. You can see this in the brain MRI images I showed awhile back that can now track the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, to the artificial intelligence now being used to help diagnose and treat cancer.

This new study is also a good example. Here the researchers used a new technology to map how the muscle is contracting. Prior to this tech, all we could say was how much the muscle contracted, not whether parts of it weren’t contracting normally.

The new research used 12 patients with neck pain and 12 matched controls without neck issues. High-density surface EMG was used to map the contractions in the jaw muscles as the subjects clenched their teeth and relaxed. One of the muscles the researchers concentrated on was the masseter.

The neck pain patient group showed a different distribution of masseter-muscle activity compared with the patients without neck pain. The position of the center of activity was up and to the front compared to the healthy subjects. In addition, the patients with neck pain had higher levels of masseter-muscle activation regardless of which tasks they were asked to perform.

We’ve always looked at the neck and TMJ as one unit. A good example is Valerie’s story. She had TMJ pain, and we treated it with stem cells, but we also needed to treat her neck to make those results stick. Check out the video for more about her journey.

The upshot? This study supported the concept that the TMJ muscles of patients with chronic neck pain were being used differently from those patients without. This fits with the hypothesis that these patients are using their jaw muscles to support the head, which leads to tendon problems and TMJ degeneration over time. So if you have neck pain and TMJ, the two may be very interrelated. That means that the road to getting your TMJ fixed may be through your neck!

Get health and wellness information from a trusted source.

By submitting the form, you are agreeing that you read and consent to our Privacy Policy. We may also contact you via email, phone, and other electronic means to communicate information about our products and services. We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “New Study: Neck Pain and TMJ Are Related…

  1. Bobby

    Hi I am very. Interested
    In your treatment please call at 505 470 8642 Bobby thx

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Will have someone contact you.

  2. Jaime Jimenez

    Hi, I read the information on this page, I am not a doctor, but I believe the two area affect each other, even though no physician I’ve seen have linked the two together.
    I have developed severe TMJ, 6 months after a bad automobile accident. My initial issues from the accident were cervical related and it turned into problems with the TMJ, and I still have continual neck problems as well. Thank you.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author


      Your case fits right in to our clinical experience.

Is Regenexx Right For You?

Request a free Regenexx Info Packet


Learn about the #1 Stem Cell & Platelet Procedures for treating arthritis, common joint injuries & spine pain.

Join a Webinar


Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to the Blog


9035 Wadsworth Pkwy #1000
Westminster, CO 80021


Copyright © Regenexx 2020. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy

*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.