Stress and TMD: What to do About Your Jaw Pain and Symptoms

The holidays, for all their warmth and cheer, can be a stressful time of year for many people. This year has been particularly trying for many reasons, and the usual holiday pressures of family, gift-buying, and planning can add extra emotional baggage. Stress can manifest in many physical ways; and one of those is in an increased rate of TMD: the dysfunction of the large joint of the jaw (temporomandibular joint). If you’ve only heard it called “TMJ” before, don’t worry; it’s the same condition, just referred to by the joint instead of the dysfunction.

Symptoms of TMD Include:

Grinding teeth (bruxing)

Jaw clenching

Frequent popping, clicking, or locking of the jaw when eating or talking

Pain or stiffness in the jaw or jaw (chewing) muscles

Feeling of ear fullness or pressure, or continuous earaches or tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Persistent pain from the neck area

Sensitive teeth


While stress can contribute to TMD, so can other causes, such as: whiplash from a car accident, poor posture from frequent sitting, and osteoarthritis. The good news is that if you’re experiencing TMD, physical therapy is a treatment that can help improve your symptoms by treating your problem at the source and helping improve your movement and function. Think you’ve stressed yourself into TMD or worried for other reasons that you might have it? Take our TMD symptom quiz here.

Please remember: Jaw pain also can be a symptom of heart attack. Seek medical care immediately if jaw pain is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Left arm pain
  • Numbness in the left arm
  • Nausea

If you’re concerned you have TMD, or if you have other problems of the musculoskeletal system (stress-related or not) Body One Physical Therapy is ready to get you back on track! We’re locally owned and operated, with three locations serving Central Indianapolis: North Indy/Carmel, Fishers, and Zionsville. Don’t let pain prevent you from doing the things you love to do and living your best life, call or click today and find out how the best PT team in Indy can make a difference in how you feel.