Experiencing ear pain is extremely uncomfortable and can disrupt our daily lives. You cannot simply ignore or dismiss it. If you hear clicking and popping sounds in your jaw, chances are that your ear pain is related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint). Read on to learn more about the link between these two and what you can do about it.
Ear and Jaw Anatomy
Many do not know that our ears, just like faces, are controlled by muscles. The temporomandibular joint, or (TMJ) for short, is near the ear and connects the skull’s temporal bone to the lower jaw.
Since these two structures are so close to each other, any issue affecting either of them has an impact on the other. Usually, inflammation or dysfunction in the TMJ leads to ear pain.
Other than that, any trauma or injury to the jaw can also indirectly negatively affect the ear, putting pressure on the nerves and causing discomfort.
Common Symptoms of TMJ to Look For Other Than Ear Pain
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) show up with a wide array of unpleasant symptoms. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Clicking or popping sound when opening or moving the jaw.
- Pain in the jaw joint, face, neck, and/or shoulders while speaking or eating.
- Numb facial muscles.
- Swelling near the jaw joint.
- Bite issues.
- Locked jaw.
- Frequent toothaches.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Trouble swallowing.
- Feeling of fullness in the ear.
Finding relief from ear pain because of TMJ starts with addressing the root cause. Here are a few common approaches:
- TMJ Orthotic:An orthotic is a mouthpiece that holds your jaw in its correct position and prevents it from slipping out of place. Initially, you may have to wear it 24/7, gradually transitioning to wearing it only at night. The good thing is that it is discreet, and so is not visible when worn.
- Physical Therapy:Physical therapy helps relieve jaw pain and realign it by addressing strained muscles. As time passes, it helps your jaw take its proper position and reduce discomfort.
- Pain-Relieving Injections:Corticosteroid injections reduce inflammation and alleviate TMJ pain in the ear.
Meanwhile, here are some additional tips for managing pain:
- Practice relaxation exercises to relieve jaw tension.
- Stick to soft foods that put less strain on the jaw.
- Avoid chewing gum.
- Be mindful of jaw clenching or tensing.
- Applying an ice pack or a heating pad to the affected area can provide temporary relief.
- Reduce stress levels, as stress can exacerbate TMJ symptoms.