Ear and jaw pain is considered primary or secondary otalgia depending on its origin. When the pain is caused by the structures of the ear itself, the ear pain is considered to be of primary origin. This is also medically known as TMJ disorder.
Among the causes of ear and jaw pain, we find a large number of external ear problems, such as cellulitis, for example, and others related to ear infections, including ruptured eardrums. It is essential to perform a good physical examination to rule out possible causes of this pain behind ear and jaw.
By observing the external auditory canal, it is possible to observe the pathologies that lead to primary otalgia, and if necessary, refer the patient to the otorhinolaryngologist.
This health problem often causes ear and jaw pain on one side. These disorders are often caused by stress and anxiety, which make us tense our muscles and clench our teeth.
We proceed to analyze the characteristics of jaw and ear pain, symptoms, treatments, and tips.
Causes of the jaw and ear pain
There are different hypotheses about the nature of this issue – none of them fully accepted by the scientific community.
In general, we can say that there are multiple causes that give rise to different types of alteration. TMJ disorders constitute a group, not a single disorder.
Below is a list of some of the most common causes.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can wear down the cartilage in the jaw joints, affecting their function and causing pain.
As these diseases are degenerative, symptoms progress and worsen.
Blows to the jaw, yawning or teeth grinding, and the use of orthodontics or surgical operations can cause ear infection jaw pain.
This disorder has been related to the genetic alteration of the catechol-O-methyltransferase enzyme, which degrades neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
Likewise, predisposition to stress also influences the psychological causes of TMJ ear pain to a certain extent.
Symptoms of the TMJ disorder
TMJ symptoms ear are pain, difficulty moving the mouth, and sounds when moving the jaws. There are other symptoms, but they are less specific to ear and jaw pain and therefore less relevant to the diagnosis.
Thus, the symptoms of ear and jaw pain may include the following:
- Dull ache or tenderness in the joint and surrounding muscles of the face and ears, especially when chewing and yawning.
- Limitation in movements and even locking or dislocation of the jaws.
- Teeth clicking and grinding when moving the jaws.
- Headaches such as tension headaches and migraines.
- Hearing loss or feeling of plugged ears.
- Tinnitus: noises such as ringing and ringing in the ears.
- Sore throat, cervical and neck pain, and toothache.
What you can do if you have ear and jaw pain
First of all, you must go to the specialist doctor to rule out any problem in the ear. Once you have ruled out that the otalgia is of primary origin, go to the most appropriate specialist.
In such a situation, if it is both a temporomandibular disorder and a cervical disorder, physiotherapy is the way to go. It is unknown if a physiotherapist can act in these cases due to their lack of knowledge about the origin of this condition.
However, it seems logical to think that, if the origin of the problem is cervical or temporomandibular, the evaluation and treatment of physiotherapy can be the “cornerstone” to deal with this pathology.
Scientific research has not been able to confirm the causes of the jaw and ear pain or demonstrate the effectiveness of the treatments used to resolve it.
There is a certain consensus that it is advisable to start with the mildest treatments and avoid surgeries.
Massage series to increase the range of motion of the jaw muscles can reduce jaw and ear pain if done regularly.
It’s also a good idea to keep your teeth slightly apart to minimize ear and jaw pain on one side.
Eating soft foods is a good way to keep your jaws as relaxed as possible. This is especially recommended in cases where the pain is intense. It is also recommended to avoid chewing gum and try to yawn gently.
Clinical psychology has developed a number of techniques to reduce anxiety and relax the body.
The use of medication does not solve ear and jaw pain in the long term but can relieve it. So it is best to use any of the above methods only if the pain is intense and in combination with other long-term treatments and massages.