When people experience jaw and upper back pain, they may be inclined to consider the two as separate occurrences. However, the various muscular and nerve connections between the head, neck and upper back give reason to consider the possibility that jaw and upper back pain are related.
Jaw pain often indicates temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. The TMJ joins the jawbone to the skull on each side of the face. When this joint is misaligned or irritated a host of symptoms can arise, including jaw pain, toothaches, headaches and ear pain. TMJ dysfunction typically involves pain and/or clicking of the joint when moving the jaw.
However, it is possible that jaw pain is actually caused by dysfunction in the musculature of the upper back and neck. There are two main ways that jaw and upper back pain can be related.
1. Forward Head Posture
Forward head is primarily caused by poor postural habits and is becoming more common today with the use of computers and small, handheld technological devices. Forward head posture most noticeably affects the muscles in the back of the neck, namely the trapezius. This large muscle extends from the mid-back out to the shoulders and up through the neck. The upper trapezius must tense up to hold the head upright. Chronically tense muscles are prone to soreness, fatigue and spasm.
The upper back and neck muscles aren’t the only ones affected by forward head posture; the muscles that support the base of the jaw (digastric and hyoid) are also shortened and tightened, pulling the jawbone back as the shortened trapezius pulls the head up to face horizontally. This muscular tension can create jaw pain.
Correcting postural dysfunction caused by chronically tense muscles requires myofascial release to elongate shortened muscles and targeted exercise to build strength where it is lacking.
2. Trigger Points
Another cause of upper back and jaw pain is trigger points in the trapezius muscle. Trigger points are knots that form in tight muscle bands. These knots can cause localized pain, either constantly or when pressed; they are also capable of causing referred pain, or pain felt in another part of the body.
The mechanism of referred pain is not precisely understood. Theories exist, some concerning neurological miscommunication in the presence of pain signals. However, the reality of referred pain is firmly known. See www.pressurepointer.com to learn about referred pain patterns of trigger points.
Tight muscles and trigger points can cause both upper back and jaw pain. Whenever two pain symptoms coincide in your body, consider the possibility that they are related.