Myofascial pain in the jaw and face most often develops gradually — it may take years of poorly-defined discomfort before you start feeling actual pain. In the initial stages, myofascial jaw pain manifests as a dull, poorly localized ache. Therefore, you may have difficulties pointing to exactly where you feel the pain. You may question yourself: Is it my tooth? My jaw? My ear? My eye? My sinuses?
Pain (or soreness) may initially come and go, or it may feel like a constant, low-grade discomfort. The onset of myofascial pain in the face and jaw is often preceded by a sensation of tightness in the jaw or clicking of the jaw; however, it can also occur without any warning signs. As the dysfunction progresses, myofascial pain increases in intensity and becomes more frequent. You may start noticing jaw pain or discomfort while eating, talking, singing, laughing, smiling, yawning, and other activities that involve opening your mouth wide.
At this point you may stop eating chewy, hard, or crunchy foods, say good-bye to thick sandwiches, and hesitate to schedule dental appointments because of fear of sitting with your mouth open for a prolonged period of time.
If not treated, myofascial pain in the face may become not only constant, but so intense that it can resemble the severe pain that occurs in trigeminal neuralgia.
Myofascial pain in the face and jaw is frequently associated with a sensation of tightness (with or without pain) in the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles. You may also experience headaches (or a sensation of pressure in the head), a feeling of stuffiness in the ear or ringing in the ear (tinnitus), dizziness, aching of the teeth, discomfort when swallowing, or a sensation of throat tightness.
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