The Complete Guide to Neck Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Factors that Contribute to Neck Pain
Neck pain is a serious matter that can have devastating effects on your life. The most commonly known factors that cause neck pain, outside of structural issues such as cervical disc herniation, bulging disc, or stenosis, are stress and poor posture.
But there are a few other factors that contribute to your neck pain as well, such as aging, injury, poor breathing habits.
This article is meant to cover the basics of what are the major causes of neck pain. In each following weekly blog post, I will delve further into each cause and provide a few solutions that may help you to stay neck pain-free.
Today, I'll be focusing on how jaw clenching and teeth grinding can affect your neck and offer some steps you can take to overcome it. The reason I’m starting with this is that in my office over 80% of neck pain issues I see are due to clenching and grinding.
The Effects of Jaw Clenching & Grinding on Your Health
Very few people believe that they might be experiencing neck pain because they are clenching their jaw. Jaw clenching and grinding, or bruxism, is a common problem that affects up to 33% of the population.
People who clench their jaws often do so during sleep, which can lead to several health issues. Not everyone realizes that these habits can cause headaches, neck and jaw pain, as well as tooth wear.
One study found that people who grind their teeth are 1.6 times more likely to develop the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which is an inflammation of the joints in the jaw.
When you clench, you put a lot of pressure on the muscles in your jaw, which can cause muscle fatigue and lead to stress-related headaches. Not only does this make it more difficult to talk and breathe comfortably, but it also puts a lot of stress on the neck.
Neck pain can also be caused by grinding your teeth
Grinding your teeth can cause a variety of dental problems, but it also can lead to neck pain. Over time, the muscular contractions from grinding your teeth may lead to long-term muscle tension and inflammation in your neck. If you grind your teeth at night, you may notice morning headaches or a stiff neck.
Your jaw is innervated by the trigeminal nerve. Grinding your teeth may aggravate the trigeminal nerve and trigger trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition in which the trigeminal nerve becomes inflamed or injured.
How to Prevent Neck Pain Caused by Jaw Clenching & Grinding
The best way to prevent neck pain caused by jaw clenching and grinding is to identify the cause of the condition. There are many reasons why people clench or grind their teeth, some of which include anxiety, stress, and sleep deprivation.
If you're already suffering from neck pain caused by jaw clenching or grinding, there are a few methods you can try to reduce it.
- Wearing a nightguard that's specially made for you by your dentist to prevent teeth grinding and clenching
- Avoid stress or anxiety by meditating, practicing yoga, or doing breathing exercises. Here’s one of my favorite breathing techniques: 4-7-8 technique:
You can practice 4-7-8 breathing anywhere and at any time. When you're first learning, try to practice at least twice a day, but you can do it as often as you want. Only do it for four cycles in a row in the beginning. After you get used to it, you can work up to eight cycles. You may feel lightheaded at first, but this will pass.
- Find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight.
- Place your tongue against the back of your top teeth and keep it there.
- Exhale completely through your mouth around your tongue, making a whoosh sound. Purse your lips if it helps.
- Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of eight.
- This completes one cycle. Repeat for three more cycles.
- Get enough sleep every night, consider using a mouth tape. This is what I use every night
- Stay away from stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime
- This technique helps relax the neck and jaw
Ps: Want to learn more self help techniques for neck pain?
PPs: Check out the article I wrote on blood sugar imbalances and it's effect on muscle & joint pain