What does TMJ dysfunction feel like?

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction is a disorder that causes pain or discomfort in your jaw and/or the areas around it, like the mouth, cheeks or eyes. The pain and discomfort can travel throughout the face and cause discomfort in other areas. 

TMJ can also feel like aching, tingling, discomfort and tenderness in your jaw, which can come in waves or be chronic. This can make moving your jaw painful. It also can feel like pain in your neck or head like headaches, stiffness, or aching in those areas, which are symptoms of TMJ.

What are the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction? 

With TMJ dysfunction, different areas of the body can feel discomfort or pain outside of the jaw, even though the pain is actually being caused by your TMJ issue. You could also be experiencing other discomforting symptoms that are related to or caused by TMJ dysfunction. For example, you may have chronic headaches and think that it is unrelated to your jaw pain, but it could be caused by your TMJ disorder. 

Here are some of the other symptoms that TMJ issues can trigger in various parts of your body:


TMJ dysfunction primarily affects the jaw joint(s). It may lead to feelings of tenderness, aching, tingling or discomfort in your jaw. You may also hear popping or clicking noises when you move your jaw or a grating noise below your ear. This can cause a tingling or discomfort because it means that there is pressure in your jaw.

You may feel pain, soreness or aching in your cheek muscles, too. This can happen when you move your jaw or if you touch the area, but the joint may also hurt when you move or touch it, which can make eating or talking painful. You may also have uncontrollable movements in your jaw, like twitching or spasms, that can make those actions difficult, too.

In severe cases, your jaw may lock up and get stiff. You may have a hard time moving your jaw after it gets stuck open or closed. That can make eating or drinking extremely difficult. If you or a loved one is experiencing this, seek medical attention so that you can begin to move your jaw again.


Recurring headaches or tension headaches are common symptoms because of the pressure that happens in the jaw and nearby areas. A TMJ disorder can feel like recurring headaches because of the aches and pain that happen throughout your neck or head. This can mean that you may have recurring or chronic headaches that can be mildly discomforting or acutely painful and be suffering from a TMJ issue. You may also have sudden feelings of pain in your head or scalp, making everyday life difficult. 


You may not have direct pain in or around your eyes, but you may experience sensitivity with your eyes. It can feel like you have a sensitivity to brightness, or you can have pain behind your eyes, both of which may also give you a headache. Another possible symptom is bloodshot eyes. All of these symptoms can happen at different times or all at once and can be symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.

Mouth and teeth 

Again, you may feel discomfort in these areas and feel soreness in either your teeth or mouth muscles. But these symptoms can be more severe than the other areas listed. A deviated jaw can be from TMJ dysfunction and may trigger feelings of aching or discomfort when it’s moving or you’re holding your jaw straight. Grinding of the teeth is common as well as bruising of the mouth. 


The ears may seem like an unexpected place to feel TMJ dysfunction symptoms, but you may be feeling symptoms of TMJ with your ears that would seem unrelated to TMJ. Hissing, buzzing or ringing may be frequent noises that you hear at random. This happens from pressure in the inner ear and can be random or chronic noises that you hear. You may also have decreased hearing where it feels like you can’t hear as well or there is a constant noise making hearing harder. 

Clogged or itchy ears can accompany these other symptoms, making hearing harder or making ear pain worse. Ear pain without an infection is another symptom. This is where the ear aches or has an acute pain without an infection or problem like water being stuck in the ear. 

More severe symptoms of TMJ dysfunction are vertigo or dizziness. This is when this condition causes problems in the inner ear that lead to dizziness or warped vision. Vertigo can also cause nausea, headaches, fatigue, eye sensitivity, ear pain, and/or tenseness throughout the jaw and mouth and more. 


Discomfort in the throat is also common because of the tenseness of the jaw that comes with TMJ issues. You may also experience difficulty swallowing, frequent coughing or clearing of the throat, or a feeling that there is a foreign object in the throat. TMJ issues can also trigger aching or tingling sensations in your throat, especially with the frequent coughing. You may also have a sore throat with no infection.

Continuum Wellness offers TMJ physical therapy that can help ease your symptoms

Our Continuum Wellness physical therapists can help you understand the multiple symptoms that you may be experiencing. They can also determine if your symptoms are being caused by TMJ dysfunction. We know that some of these symptoms can cause great discomfort and disrupt your daily life. Speaking with one of our specialists can be your first step toward treating your symptoms and their underlying cause. Our physical therapists can build you a personalized therapy plan that can include treatment options like manual therapy or joint mobilization

Get back to the life you love and don’t let pain dictate your life. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

For more information, Contact Us Today.

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