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TMJD And Your Atlas – The Connection Between Your Neck & Jaw

Is it painful for you to bite or chew?

Do you grind or clench your teeth at night?

Does it seem like every time your neck is stiff your jaw hurts too?

TMJ Colorado Springs

If any of these are true, you may be living with TMJD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. People that have been diagnosed with TMJD in Colorado Springs often present with pain in their jaw that can radiate into the face or neck, limited range of motion, and sometimes cracking or what’s known as crepitus when moving the jaw.

This disorder often affects a normal bite pattern which can lead to painful chewing, drinking, or swallowing. When the bite is abnormal for longer periods of time this can cause a tremendous amount of pain in the jaw as well as headaches, vertigo, neck pain, and ear pain.

TMJD Doctor Colorado Springs

So how does your head and affect your jaw?

Let us dissect the anatomy of the jaw to connect the dots. The jaw is made up of two TMJs on either side of the face. The word ‘temporo’ comes from the word temporal bone which makes up the sides of your skull just above the ear. The word mandibular comes from the mandible which is the hinge like bone that makes up the part of your jaw and chin that moves. These two bones form an articulation or joint about which the jaw can open and close when speaking, eating, or yawning.

What’s important to understand is that the upper neck and skull form an intimate relationship with jaw joints. First, from a structural perspective the skull (and it’s weight of 8-14lbs) sits on top of the first bone in the spine known as the TMJD and Your Atlas - The Connection Between Your Neck & Jaw By: Dr. Ernesto Fernandez Atlas (weighing about 2oz). If someone had experienced a trauma in their past such as a car accident, concussion, slip on the ice, or whiplash – these injuries can cause the atlas to shift out of a normal position beneath the skull. This shift often causes postural deviations such as head tilt and shoulder imbalance. Since one half of the temporomandibular joints consist of the skull, the skull shifting or tilting on top of the atlas bone will cause muscular stress and imbalances that lead to an uneven bite.

Second, from a neurological perspective the jaw and the actions of the jaw joint are controlled by a complex nerve called the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is the 5 th out of 12 cranial nerves that regulates most of the sensory input from the face to the brain as well as the motor output from the brain to the muscles of mastication (aka chewing).

The fascinating part of the trigeminal nerve is its size. It is broken up into three main branches all of which originate in the part of the brain stem known as the pons (which sits just above the atlas bone in the base of the skull) and travels down the neck to about the 2nd or 3rd bone in the cervical spine. While the main branches of this nerve connect to the structures of the face, that extension into the neck known as the trigeminal cervical nucleus [1] is what researchers believe to be most involved when it comes to neck problems creating jaw problems.

That nucleus that lives in the neck carries information along the same neurological pathway as the branches in the face, that ultimately end in the brain. Since pain is actually just a perception of sensation that happens in the brain, neurological compromise along any part of that pathway (like the trigeminal cervical nucleus for example) may cause sensations of pain anywhere along that path like the jaw, face, and head.

What causes neurological compromise?

Physical trauma to the head causes the skull and upper most bones in the neck to shift out of a normal accepted range in upright posture [2]. This foundational shift pulls on the spinal cord and nerves passing through those bones[3]. The tethering or stretching forces put on the spinal cord from that shift irritates the trigeminal cervical nucleus leading to pain and dysfunction of the jaw joint.

Balance Chiropractic solely focuses on correcting the foundational shift induced by past trauma using objective diagnostic measurements and precision spinal adjustments customized to the upper neck.

Jaw Pain Colorado Springs

To learn more about Foundational Correction in Colorado Springs call 719-265-0115 to schedule your complimentary consultation today.


[2] Freeman, M.D., Rosa, S., Harshfield, D., et al.; A case-control study of cerebellar tonsillar ectopia (Chiari) and head/neck trauma (whiplash); Brain Injury; July 2010; 24(7-8): 988-994.

[3] Grostic, J.D.; Dentate Ligament – cord distortion hypothesis; Chiropractic Research Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, pp 47-55, 1988.

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