Jaw or temporomandibular joint pain is common after an auto injury, even when there is no direct trauma to the jaw. The condition can be confusing to health-care providers, since oftentimes the jaw symptoms don’t appear immediately after the injury, sometimes developing weeks or even months later.
New research over the last 10 years suggests that jaw pain after an auto injury actually originates in the neck.
When your neck is injured, the pain signals travel from the spine to your brainstem. Here, nerves from many different parts of the body converge together before they pass to the pain centers of your brain.
When these nerves converge, the signals can get confused and crossed. It’s similar to the arm pain experienced by someone having a heart attack. The nerve signals from the heart converge with those of the arm, and the patient feels the pain in the arm instead of the actual source.
The nerves of your jaw connect in the neck with pain receptors from your spine. When chronic pain signals from your injury overstimulate the nerve junctions, you can experience pain in other parts of your head, including your jaw.
And since the jaw is experiencing pain, it can cause the muscles in the area to tense up, causing more pain.
Chiropractic treatments are an effective approach to recovering from neck pain and auto injuries. By getting to the root cause of your pain, chiropractors can get you back on the road to health.
Friedman MH, Weisberg J. The craniocervical connection: a retrospective analysis of 300 whiplash patients with cervical and temporomandibular disorders. The Journal of Carniomandibular 2000; 18 (3):163-167.