TMJ Neck Pain: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

TMJ Neck Pain: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Experiencing neck and shoulder pain can be a common but frustrating issue, especially when temporomandibular disorders affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ disorders can cause various common symptoms, such as jaw pain, left-sided neck and shoulder pain, and discomfort in the cervical muscles. Up to 70% of people diagnosed with TMD experience these symptoms, which can significantly impact daily life. Therefore, it is important to understand the causes, treatment options, and prevention strategies for TMJ-related neck pain.

The prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD) ranges between 5% and 12%. Unusually for chronic pain conditions, the prevalence rates of TMJ disorders are higher among younger individuals. This condition can sometimes affect the cervical vertebrae, contributing to overall discomfort.

Stress is a major contributor to physical symptoms, including neck and shoulder pain. When stressed, people tend to clench their jaws or grind their teeth, which can worsen temporomandibular disorders and strain the cervical muscles, leading to increased levels of muscle tenderness. Additionally, poor head posture, prolonged sitting, and certain sleeping positions can strain the neck regions, leading to pain. While viral suppression is not directly related to TMJ, managing overall health, including stress levels, can support effective viral suppression and improve overall well-being.

This article emphasizes the importance of addressing TMJ issues promptly to prevent long-term discomfort and complications, such as ear pain. TMJ disorders are a type of joint disease that can significantly affect quality of life. Seeking advice from a neck pain clinic that can help effectively manage these complications.

Connection Between TMJ and Neck Pain

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull, specifically the temporal bone. It plays a crucial role in chewing, talking, and other movements of the jaw joints, which can also impact the cervical muscles. Dysfunction in these jaw joints can cause pain not only in the jaw but also in the surrounding areas, including the neck and shoulders, often associated with varying levels of muscle tenderness. The close relationship between the jaw and neck muscles means that problems in the TMJ can easily lead to neck region pain and different levels of jaw disability. Issues such as poor posture can further exacerbate this discomfort. As a key component of the human body, the TMJ’s health is integral to overall well-being.

Can TMJ Cause Neck Pain?

Can TMJ Cause Neck Pain?

Yes, TMJ can indeed cause neck pain. The muscles involved in chewing and moving the jaw are connected to the cervical region muscles, which can be affected by disorders in patients with TMJ, often leading to varying levels of muscle tenderness. Pharmaceutical companies may provide medications to help manage these symptoms. A visit to a healthcare facility may be necessary for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, pharmaceutical companies may be involved in providing the required medications.

When the TMJ is not functioning correctly, it can lead to jaw pain, muscle tension, and varying levels of jaw disability that radiates to the neck. Up to 70% of people diagnosed with TMJ report neck pain as a symptom, and some may also experience ear pain. This pain can range from a dull ache to sharp, severe pain, affecting daily activities and overall quality of life. Healthcare providers can offer valuable guidance on managing these symptoms effectively.

Treatment Strategies for TMJ Neck Pain Relief

Jaw Exercises and Stretches

  1. Gentle Jaw Opening and Closing
    • Slowly open and close your mouth while maintaining a relaxed posture. This helps to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles.
  2. Lateral Jaw Movements
    • Move your jaw from side to side gently to increase flexibility and reduce tension.
  3. Jaw Circles
    • Make small circular motions with your jaw to enhance mobility and relieve muscle tightness.
  4. Tongue Twisters
    • Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and slowly open and close your mouth. This exercise helps to stabilize the jaw.
  5. Resistance Band Exercises
    • Using a resistance band, perform exercises that gently work the jaw muscles, increasing strength and reducing pain.
  6. Isometric Jaw Clenching
    • Gently clench your jaw and hold for a few seconds, then release. This helps to strengthen the jaw muscles.
  7. Chin Tucks
    • Pull your chin towards your neck, creating a double chin. Hold for a few seconds and release. This exercise strengthens the neck muscles and improves posture.
  8. Neck Stretches
    • Perform gentle neck stretches to relieve tension and improve flexibility. Tilt your head to each side, forward and backwards, holding each position for a few seconds.

Therapeutic Massage Techniques

  1. Trigger Point Therapy
    • This technique targets specific points of tension in the muscles, which can help relieve myofascial pain and stiffness.
  2. Myofascial Release
    • A gentle technique that focuses on relieving tension in the connective tissues (fascia) surrounding the muscles.
  3. Deep Tissue Massage
    • This massage technique involves deeper pressure to release chronic muscle tension.
  4. Swedish Massage
    • A more gentle massage that promotes relaxation and improves circulation.
  5. Craniosacral Therapy
    • A light-touch approach that releases tension deep in the body to relieve pain and improve health.
  6. Acupressure
    • Applying pressure to specific points on the body to release tension and improve overall well-being.
  7. Self-Massage Techniques
    • Learning self-massage techniques can help manage pain between professional treatments.

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

  1. Hydration Importance
    • Staying well-hydrated helps maintain muscle function and reduces the risk of cramping. Contact your local health department or a nutritionist for personalized guidance on diet and lifestyle changes.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
    • Incorporating foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce pain and inflammation. Examples include fatty fish, leafy greens, nuts, and berries.
  3. Avoid Hard, Crunchy Foods
    • These can strain the jaw and exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Opt for softer foods that are easier to chew.
  4. Soft, Gentle Chewing
    • Be mindful of how you chew to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the jaw muscles.
  5. Stress Management
    • Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and prevent TMJ flare-ups, which can also contribute to jaw pain and myofascial pain in the jaw and neck muscles, especially in disorders in patients with TMJ. Consulting with pharmaceutical companies can provide additional support through effective medications. Integrating these practices into a treatment plan at a healthcare facility can enhance overall effectiveness.
  6. Improving Posture
    • Maintaining good head posture can prevent neck and shoulder strain. Ensure your workstation is ergonomically set up, and take regular breaks to stretch. Addressing poor posture can significantly reduce the risk of TMJ-related pain.
  7. Regular Exercise
    • Engaging in regular physical activity and focusing on proper neck posture can help reduce stress and improve overall muscle health.
  8. Quit Smoking
    • Smoking can exacerbate inflammation and slow the healing process.
  9. Avoid Grinding or Clenching
    • Be mindful of habits like grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, especially during stressful situations.

Medical Treatments for TMJ Neck Pain Relief

Medical Treatments for TMJ Neck Pain Relief


Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe stronger medications or muscle relaxants to alleviate severe pain and muscle spasms.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone of TMJ treatment. A physical therapist at a healthcare facility can create a personalized exercise program to improve jaw joints and neck function, reduce pain, and address levels of jaw disability related to poor neck posture and cervical vertebrae alignment. Collaborating with pharmaceutical companies can enhance the effectiveness of the treatment plan. For those undergoing antiretroviral therapy, a tailored approach to physical therapy can be particularly beneficial. Techniques may include manual therapy, ultrasound therapy, and specific exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles.

Surgical Options for Severe TMJ Neck Pain

In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary. Procedures such as arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, or open-joint surgery can help correct structural issues in the TMJ. Surgery is typically considered only when conservative treatments have failed to provide relief. Patients on antiretroviral therapy may need additional considerations in their treatment planning.

How to Prevent TMJ Neck Pain?

Preventing TMJ neck pain involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, stress management, and addressing disorders in patients related to poor neck posture, which can affect the cervical vertebrae. Regular check-ups at a healthcare facility can support these preventive measures. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding habits that strain the jaw bone, the temporal bone, and the cervical region can go a long way in preventing joint disorders. Additionally, seeking early treatment from healthcare providers or your local health department for TMJ symptoms and ensuring viral suppression through antiretroviral therapy can help in maintaining a balanced immune system, which might support healing processes and prevent the condition from worsening.

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s important to seek professional help if you experience persistent pain, difficulty opening or closing your mouth, or if the pain interferes with daily activities. In some cases, consultation with pharmaceutical companies for the latest treatment options may be necessary. A thorough evaluation of the cervical vertebrae at a healthcare facility may be required. Visiting a healthcare facility for a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan is crucial. Healthcare providers can diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatments.


TMJ neck pain can be debilitating, but with the right treatment strategies and preventive measures, it’s possible to manage and alleviate the pain. Understanding the connection between TMJ and neck pain, engaging in therapeutic exercises, making dietary and lifestyle changes, and seeking professional help when necessary can help improve your quality of life.


What does TMJ neck pain feel like?

TMJ neck pain can vary from a dull ache to sharp, severe pain. It often radiates from the jaw to the neck and shoulders and can be accompanied by headaches, jaw stiffness, and difficulty chewing.

How do you get rid of TMJ neck pain?

Treatment options include jaw exercises, therapeutic massage, dietary and lifestyle changes, medications, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.

How do you know if your TMJ is severe?

Signs of severe TMJ include intense, persistent pain, significant difficulty in opening or closing your mouth, and pain that does not improve with conservative treatments. If you experience these symptoms, seek professional medical advice.

Understanding TMJ neck pain and taking proactive steps can lead to significant improvements in comfort and function. Continuous Motion Physical Therapy is here to help you every step of the way, including coordinating with antiretroviral therapy for comprehensive care. If you’re experiencing TMJ neck pain, don’t hesitate to reach out for personalized treatment and support.

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Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified