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Is There a Link Between Stress, Anxiety and TMJ?

May 1, 2016

The answer? They could all be linked. All three diagnoses—stress, anxiety and temporomandibular (TMJ) joint disorder—have similar symptoms, causing them to frequently be wrongly diagnosed. For patients experiencing any of the three, it’s important to understand the unique symptoms of each condition and the typical link that exists between them.

Unfortunately, stress affects many people. Stress is how the body reacts to and handles harmful situations. While our bodies are designed to handle small amounts of stress, ongoing or prolonged exposure to stressful situations can be harmful to our health.

Common symptoms of stress include:

– Bruxism, or severe grinding of the teeth

– Headache

– Muscle tension or pain

– Trouble sleeping

Stress and TMJ are often linked to each other. The symptoms of stress often manifest themselves in physical ways, often leading to a TMJ diagnosis.

The jaw joint is one of the most complex joints in your body. Controlled by an intricate network of muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue, these joints can become misaligned, the muscles can spasm and nerve pain may present itself. For patients who have been diagnosed with TMJ, symptoms can look completely different from one person to another, which requires TMJ pain treatment to be customized to the person.

Common symptoms of TMJ include:

– Headache

– Aching pain in and around your ear

– Joint locking or popping

– Pain or tenderness in the cheek and jaw

– Pain or difficulty chewing

Because TMJ has such a wide variety of symptoms, even some that seem unrelated (link to Lesser Known Symptoms blog), TMJ can both cause anxiety and be caused by anxiety. There are some symptoms of TMJ, especially dizziness, tinnitus and headaches, that can be triggers for anxiety. And conversely, anxiety symptoms like tense muscles and jaw clenching can ultimately cause TMJ.

Anxiety is an emotion felt by everyone at one time or another, but prolonged anxiety and anxiety disorders can affect your well-being and daily life. Patients who have been diagnosed with anxiety experience a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

– Feeling nervous, restless or tense

– Difficulty controlling worry

– Feeling weak or tiredTrouble sleeping

Like TMJ, anxiety can be both the symptom or the cause of TMJ. It all depends on your unique symptoms.

The relationship between stress, anxiety and TMJ can be complicated. If you’re experiencing any jaw, head, neck or shoulder pain while under stress or experiencing anxiety, seeking the advice and help of an experienced medical professional should be your next step. Dr. Mitakides has more than 40 years of experience diagnosing and treating patients with TMJ. Call the TMJ Treatment Center at 937-427-3131, or contact us to schedule an appointment today!