The lower jaw of the body has the mastication muscles surrounding the mandible and provides functionality to the jaw through chewing, moving the lower jaw up, down, left, and right, and speaking. The jaw also has joints known as the temporomandibular joints that slide back and forth to provide movement also. The jaw is also home to the teeth and tongue, which play a role in the mouth by consuming and grinding food into smaller bites to travel down to the gut system. Just like every joint and muscle in the body, common issues or injuries can affect the jaw and cause pain symptoms associated with the problem. Sometimes normal wear and tear can affect the joints in the jaw, or traumatic events can affect the surrounding muscles causing soreness in the jaw area. If the issue involving the jaw is not treated over time, it can lead to chronic disorders and overlap with other chronic disorders that can affect the whole body and the jaw. One of the jaw disorders is TMJ dysfunction, which can cause overlapping symptoms in the jaw and the body. Today’s article examines what TMJ dysfunction is, the signs and symptoms, and ways to manage TMJ dysfunction in the jaw. We refer patients to certified providers who specialize in musculoskeletal and oral treatments to aid individuals suffering from TMJ dysfunction affecting their jaws. We also guide our patients by referring them to our associated medical providers based on their examination when appropriate. We ensure to find that education is the solution to asking our providers insightful questions. Dr. Jimenez DC observes this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer

What Is TMJ Dysfunction?

Have you been experiencing muscle pain in your neck, shoulders, and jaw? What about tenderness in your cheek when you lightly touched it? Or do you have difficulty chewing or moving your jaw when speaking? Many of these symptoms are signs that you could be experiencing TMJ dysfunction in your jaw. TMJ dysfunction, or temporomandibular dysfunction, is part of a group of orofacial pain conditions that affects the jaw joint and muscle, thus causing overlapping issues in the lower jaw. TMJ dysfunction also affects the mastication muscles that help move the jaw by making the muscles hyperactive and causing referred pain to the rest of the body. Studies reveal that about 25% of the population does get affected by TMJ dysfunction since it is a degenerative musculoskeletal condition associated with morphological and functional jaw deformities.


The Signs & Symptoms Of TMJ Dysfunction On The Jaw

TMJ dysfunction may potentially not only cause jaw pain but can also affect the neck and shoulders connected to the cervical spine. Studies reveal that TMJ dysfunction is correlated with neck disability, jaw dysfunction, and muscle tenderness in many individuals that suffer pain with or without TMJ dysfunction. TMJ dysfunction is associated with these issues because the jaw structures are affected by trigger points along the neck and jaw. To that point, TMJ dysfunction is often accompanied by back, joint, and abdominal pain. But how would TMJ dysfunction correlate with these pain issues? Studies reveal that disturbances in the upper body extremities may cause an increase in muscle tension associated with the whole-body imbalance that is potentially causing TMJ dysfunction. Some of the related symptoms of TMJ dysfunction in the jaw include:

  • Pain in neck and shoulders
  • The jaw becomes “locked” in an open or closed position
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Muscle tenderness in the jaw
  • Having difficulty chewing
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Body imbalance


Exercises For TMJ Dysfunction- Video

Have you been experiencing muscle tenderness in your jaw? What about having some difficulty chewing or speaking? Do you hear popping sounds when your open or close your mouth? Some of these symptoms are associated with a musculoskeletal jaw disorder known as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction. The video above shows the top 3 exercises for TMJ dysfunction that can help alleviate pain from the jaw, face, or ear. TMJ dysfunction is a musculoskeletal disorder that affects the mastication muscles and causes referred pain to the neck, head, and ear. TMJ dysfunction is tricky to diagnose since trigger points associated with TMJ may also affect the teeth, causing tooth pain in the oral-facial region. This is known as somato-visceral, where the affected muscle correlates with the corresponding organ. Thankfully, there are ways to manage TMJ dysfunction and its associated symptoms.

Ways To Manage TMJ Dysfunction In The Jaw


Many people can use various ways to manage TMJ dysfunction in the jaw to alleviate the pain. Some non-surgical treatments that individuals can incorporate include:

  • Heat or cold pack applied to the side of the face 
  • Gentle stretching exercises for the jaw
  • Eating soft foods
  • Wearing a night guard while sleeping

If the pain from TMJ dysfunction still affects the individual, therapies like chiropractic care can help manage the symptoms. Chiropractic care can effectively treat TMJ dysfunction, especially spinal subluxation or misalignment in the cervical region. Chiropractors will fully evaluate the patient’s temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles, joints, and ligaments to identify the TMJ problem and the underlying causes. To that point, a chiropractor may suggest a range of treatments, which includes stretches and exercises to not only alleviate pain and stiffness in the jaw point but also to bring back balance to the body. This allows minimal rubbing and friction in the jaw joint.


Overall, TMJ dysfunction is a musculoskeletal jaw disorder that affects the mastication muscles and causes referred pain to different areas in the upper extremities of the body. Some of the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can make it difficult for the jaw to open or close, causing pain, headaches, and muscle tenderness in the neck and shoulders. To that point, individuals suffering from TMJ dysfunction may potentially deal with pain-related symptoms. Various non-surgical treatments are available to manage TMJ dysfunction and reduce associated pain symptoms affecting the jaw.



Kim, Doori, et al. “The Relationship between Spinal Pain and Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Korea: A Nationwide Propensity Score-Matched Study – BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 29 Dec. 2019,

Murphy, Meghan K, et al. “Temporomandibular Disorders: A Review of Etiology, Clinical Management, and Tissue Engineering Strategies.” The International Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Implants, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013,

Silveira, A, et al. “Jaw Dysfunction Is Associated with Neck Disability and Muscle Tenderness in Subjects with and without Chronic Temporomandibular Disorders.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015,

Walczy?ska-Dragon, Karolina, et al. “Correlation between TMD and Cervical Spine Pain and Mobility: Is the Whole Body Balance TMJ Related?” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014,



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The information herein on "What Is TMJ Dysfunction?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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