Lately you’ve been waking up with jaw pain. At first you chalked it up to teeth grinding or bruxism. There’s a lot going on at work and at home, and you’ve been a little on edge. But then the pain seemed to move to a different location, and while it was still uncomfortable it felt more like tightness in the neck muscles around your jaw.
Your symptoms don’t seem to be consistent, so how are you going to get it treated if you don’t have a clue how to describe it to a doctor? Now what? If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you are not alone, says our own Behnaz Garemani, DDS, here at Brite Dental Spa, located in New York City.
You just may be suffering from myofascial pain, which is caused by a variety of risk factors. In this blog, Dr. Garemani offers her insights on this often overlooked and misunderstood condition and how it may be connected to stress or anxiety.
Before we dive into why myofascial pain happens; let’s start unpacking this complex condition by describing what it is exactly. If you break down the word myofascial, “myo” means muscle and ”fascial” refers to fascia, which is the connective tissue that wraps around the nearly 400 muscles in the human body.
Myofascial pain, also sometimes called myofascial pain syndrome, is a common chronic musculoskeletal condition. Remarkably about 85% of the general population will experience myofascial pain sometime during their lifetime. The actual number could be much higher though because myofascial pain can be tricky to diagnose so it can be misdiagnosed as another condition or overlooked altogether.
Myofascial pain is all about trigger points or knots that form within a taut band of muscle. Trigger points are made up of muscle fibers that get frozen in a contracted state, which stops blood flow. The lack of blood flow in turn cuts off oxygen to the area, and creates a build up of waste, which irritates the trigger point, causing pain.
Ultimately your brain tells your body not to use that muscle and the surrounding muscles may attempt to pick up the slack, and can also develop trigger points. This chain reaction is why myofascial pain may seem to move or shift around.
Myofascial pain does not have one specific cause. Instead there are a variety of risk factors that can contribute to the development of myofascial pain, including overuse of muscles, stress and anxiety, poor posture, fatigue, trauma, and misaligned lower and upper teeth.
Anxiety and stress can play a role in myofascial pain by contributing to other associated risk factors, such as bruxism, more commonly referred to as teeth clenching or grinding, which not only overuses the muscles, but also puts repeated strain on them leaving them more vulnerable to developing trigger points.
Myofascial pain can affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the muscles around the mandible or jawbone. In these cases, myofascial pain manifests as TMJ or a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). In fact, myofascial pain is the most common form of TMD, often resulting in pain and discomfort in the associated muscles not only in and around the mandible, but also the muscles that control function for the neck and shoulder.
The key to treating myofascial pain is to address the underlying cause. For instance, if bruxism is the culprit your provider may recommend a mouth guard or night guard to protect your teeth from damage as well as to reduce tension.
Similarly your provider may recommend stress management tactics, physical therapy, or injections, such as Botox, to release trigger points. Botox injections can manage a variety of myofascial pain symptoms like tension, bruxism, and headaches. The overarching goal in all these treatment options is to relax the muscles to release the trigger points.
If you have pain in your jaw, face, and neck, and think you may be suffering from myofascial pain, contact us to schedule a consultation at Brite Dental Spa in Midtown West, Manhattan.
We’ll do a comprehensive examination and evaluation to help you find out what’s going on so that we can get you back to feeling more like yourself again. Request your appointment online or text or call us today at 646-628-1211.