Is there really a link between stress and TMJ?
Stress is how the brain and body responds to any demand or danger. Anything from simple everyday activities, like work and school, to major life changes or traumatic events can be extremely stressful. The bottom line is that stress affects your health and it can do so in ways that may not always be apparent.
Stress and TMJ are often linked to each other because the symptoms of stress affect your physical body, which can often lead to a TMJ diagnosis. We all know stress can influence your day-to-day mood and activities, but there are more serious consequences to prolonged stress than you might think. Stress has a significant effect your body’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as well as hormone production. Cortisol, for example, is the primary stress hormone that is released in your body and has been linked to health hazards such as high blood pressure and other physical/ autoimmune responses. The systems in our bodies are deeply connected to one another, so when one part suffers, so does the whole. Being more anxious and depressed can cause problems with how your body responds to certain stressors or triggers in ways we might not be aware. For some, the physical manifestations of stress can be headaches, grinding your teeth, and clenching your jaw which are also major symptoms of TMJ Disorder.
The problem we all face
High levels of stress can cause you to unconsciously clench or grind your teeth and tighten your jaw muscles. The muscles of the jaw are stimulated by the same nerve that triggers our flight or fight response when we are stressed, so that nerve becomes overactive. Eventually, over time that creates a tension in your jaw muscle where the joints pull out of alignment and places abnormal pressure on the TMJ joint. This is all caused by stress.
The early stages of pain associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is called myofascial pain disorder. Both are stress related and include symptoms of jaw tightness, muscle soreness and pain. When untreated, the jaw can become misplaced and disrupt the alignment of the discs in your TMJ joint.
Staying proactive about your health
Managing your stress is a major way you can alleviate or prevent TMJ symptoms or prevent making your existing TMJ disorder worse. Here are three ways to manage the stressors in your life:
- Identify the triggers
What are the things in your life that cause stress? Know how and why they affect you. Is it work? Is it a person? Is the stress worth it? If it isn’t worth it, ask yourself: is this something I can change or remove from my life? If you can, do it.
- Take care of yourself
When you don’t take care of yourself, it can be hard to manage the stressors. Maintain a healthy lifestyle – exercise, eat good healthy meals, and get good night’s sleep.
- Seek Help
Don’t feel like you have to handle the hard things in life on your own. Seek help from professionals, like counselors, religious authorities, or a trusted friend to help you carry the weight. Don’t think you have to do it alone.
What to do next
If you think stress has caused a TMJ disorder to develop or caused your existing disorder to worsen, contact TMJ Plus for a free consultation at (817) 686-8125. Become TMJ pain free to become yourself again.