Your body has 3 nervous systems
1. Motor: this is the part of the nervous system that you are in total control over. It allows you to talk, walk, sit, stand, or do whatever else you tell your muscles you want them to do.
2. Sympathetic: this is the part of the nervous system that you cannot control. Your brain and sensory system tell the sympathetic to get your adrenaline ready for action, especially stressful type action. It prepares you for a fight by speeding up your heart rate, pumping up your adrenaline, and “juicing” up your muscles. It has direct innervation (control) to your muscles by way of the muscle spindles. If you ever trembled during a scary movie, now you know why. The sympathetic turns itself off during proper sleep and restful periods. In patients who clench and grind and have stress/anxiety this nervous system has a hard time turning off. Notice how close it is anatomically to your jaws and neck. Compression and activity of this area, such as seen in patients who clench and grind their teeth, can cause overactivity of the Sympathetic System.
3. Parasympathetic: this is the part of the nervous system, which helps your body to heal. You cannot control this system, although meditation and stress relief methods are known to help induce its activity. It brings your body into balance by releasing hormones, slowing your heart rate, and enabling your organs to heal themselves. The parasympathetic works while you sleep or lay in the sun on the beach. In head pain patients this system is often turned OFF and patients can experience a lack of healing. That is the reason behind so many health issues that head pain patients experience.
What happens with many TMJ patients, people who are under a lot of stress, or patients who have suffered trauma, is that their body, without awareness, is continuously activating the sympathetic system. A jaw joint that is compressed, or damaged, sends out distress signals to the nervous system, particularly: the sympathetic nervous system. This results in further muscular contraction and pain, because the body tells the muscles to “brace” themselves against further damage. The parasympathetic system does not get a chance to function and help the body to heal and recover. Many health problems start to develop, including digestive, metabolic, immune, and cardiovascular.
The muscles simply try to protect a damaged joint; unfortunately the end result is more damage and more pain. This condition is severe in patients who have suffered trauma as a result of an accident. Many traumatic brain injuries will cause the sympathetic nervous system to activate excessively. The sympathetic system also causes damage to many other parts of the body. These problems can be debilitating to these patients, especially if they have existing improper jaw relationships.
Stress, anxiety, and/or frustration, causes many people to clench or grind their teeth. Again, stress also causes over activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system can actually control your muscles without your knowledge of it doing it. Muscular hyperactivity causes the jaw joints to become jammed, overloaded, and over-closed. After time, clenching and grinding causes your muscles to spasm, resulting in tension headaches, and back/neck pain. Researchers have given these muscle spasms their own name: Myofacial Pain Dysfunction (MPD).
To learn more about the nervous system and TMJ headache pain, contact us today!