Trigeminal Neuralgia vs. TMJ: How To Know What You Have

Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ, Trigeminal neuralgia relief infographic

Understanding medical terms can get a bit tricky sometimes. That’s because some seem to refer to the same condition. One example of this would be trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ. Both conditions cause extreme facial pain that can worsen with movement. Unfortunately, many aren’t sure if they have TMJ disorder or trigeminal neuralgia. As a result, some people suffer from their painful disorder in silence. 

Let’s try to tackle both diseases, especially their similarities and differences, and what you can do to manage them the right way. This way, you have a better chance at coping with the effects of either illness.


TMJ Disorder and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Facial pain can stem from a variety of reasons. Some might arise from a condition we call TMJ disorder. Others happen due to trigeminal neuralgia. Most of the time, you can see an overlap in the symptoms of the two conditions, making them a bit difficult to distinguish from each other. As a result, it becomes extra crucial to pay attention to specific symptoms and work closely with your physician when getting a diagnosis. Let’s check out the distinguishing signs of trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ below.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Symptoms

The irritation of the trigeminal nerve, the nerve bundle that supplies sensation to the face, can cause varying symptoms. It can include the following examples: 

  • Stabbing or electric-like sensation on the face, jaw, or one cheek
  • Painful feeling in the front side of an ear
  • Pins and needles or numbness on the face
  • Irritating tooth pain

Most of these symptoms affect one side of the face. The pain also comes and goes. Sometimes, you might experience periods of stabbing sensations or no pain at all. These symptoms usually get triggered when you move the facial muscles or apply even the slightest pressure on your face. 

A few examples of activities that can trigger the disabling symptoms include chewing, washing the face, excessive talking, brushing the cheeks, and shaving. 

Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ, Trigeminal neuralgia relief infographic

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

TMJ pain is a complaint that often gets confused for a dental condition. Its symptoms can cause debilitating effects. They can prevent you from doing work or cause you to feel irritated. Some of the leading TMJ disorder symptoms are as follows: 

  • Jaw muscle pain 
  • Pain that sometimes extends from the jaw to the neck and shoulders
  • Jaw locking
  • Limited range of jaw motion
  • Awkward alignment of jawbones
  • Hearing a popping sound on the temporomandibular joint

Many patients have unilateral symptoms. However, in the worst cases, the pain can occur on both sides of the face. When this happens, it becomes harder to cope with the condition. 

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ Pain?

So what makes trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ so painful? Why do people diagnosed with such disorders experience disabling symptoms? The explanation often lies in the alignment of bones along the spine, most specifically the neck. 

Due to the highly flexible structure of the neck, they can shift from their alignment due to a blunt force or rapid overextension of the muscles. When this happens, the misaligned bones can press on the nerves near them, such as the trigeminal nerve. 

Besides affecting the nerves and their respective nerve roots, neck misalignment can also alter spine alignment. It can potentially contribute to or cause TMJ disorder if it causes your temporomandibular joint to shift from its original position. 

If you were in an accident or suffered from a neck or head trauma months or years before the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ started to show, it might be a good idea to get your neck alignment examined.

If not, you can consult with your physician to find the underlying cause of the pain and determine whether you have TMJ disorder or trigeminal neuralgia. 

Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ, Trigeminal neuralgia relief infographic

Diagnosis of TMJ Disorder and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia affects about 150,000 people each year in the US. Meanwhile, studies on TMJ claim that roughly 10 million Americans have a TMJ disorder. Have you ever wondered how these folks got their diagnosis?

Essentially, if you notice any of the symptoms we discussed above, you should head over to your physician for a check-up. It’s crucial to rule out other possible causes of your facial pain. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible on how often you experience the pain and the specific symptoms you observe. 

Besides a physical examination and retracing your medical history, your doctor might also ask you to undergo additional tests like an x-ray test for the jaw, MRI scan, and CT scan. 

If you get a positive diagnosis for either of the two, you can try consulting with an upper cervical chiropractic doctor. This way, you can determine if a neck misalignment is a reason behind your pain.


Upper Cervical Care for Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ Disorder

It can be challenging to have either trigeminal neuralgia or TMJ pain. But, thankfully, with natural remedies like upper cervical care, you have a better chance of coping better. Upper cervical chiropractic is a procedure that specializes in correcting faulty neck alignments. 

As mentioned earlier, this problem arises after an accident or trauma to the neck or head. It can also develop when you have poor posture or if you have an existing spinal structure issue. To restore balance, an upper cervical care doctor examines the misalignment and plans the adjustments needed. This way, you get a customized approach and ensure that the alignment holds.  

As your bones shift into their former position, you reduce the stress on the trigeminal nerve or the TMJ. In effect, you can slowly get rid of the symptoms and experience long-term and sustainable relief. 

Indeed, an upper cervical care doctor can help with trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ. Find a local upper cervical chiropractic practice today!

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.