Study Confirms Link Between Neck Pain and Jaw Disorders
Nearly half of people with neck pain develop chronic symptoms. However, what leads neck pain to become chronic is not well understood.
It is thought that trigger points (hypersensitive spots) in the masticatory muscles could result in sensitization, leading to chronic symptoms. Trigger points have been shown to be associated with changes in the muscle activation pattern and result in motor dysfunction. A recent study examined this theory by describing differences in the muscle trigger points and jaw opening between people with mechanical neck pain and those without neck pain.
The study involved 20 patients with neck pain and 20 without pain. The myofascial muscles were examined to identify trigger points (TrPs). Jaw opening was measured with a ruler. A greater number of TrPs in the masticatory muscles was found in patients with neck pain than in controls. Patients with neck pain also had smaller jaw opening than those without pain. A correlation between jaw opening and the number of TrPs was also found: the greater the number of trigger points, the smaller the jaw opening.
This study is the first to show evidence of TrPs in the masticatory muscles related to neck pain. The results of the study support the idea that neck pain may be linked with sensitization and trigger points, which could have clinical implications in terms of preventing the spread of symptoms.
Previous research has demonstrated that whiplash patients frequently experience jaw symptoms and temporomandibular joint disorders.
De-la-llave-Rincon Al, et al. Myofascial trigger points in the masticatory muscles in patients with and without chronic mechanical neck pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2012;35(9):678-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.10.008.