TMJ in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) causes jaw pain, and people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) tend to struggle with TMJ more than those without these conditions.


More than 10 million people in the United States are believed to be affected by the jaw pain of TMJ, and the disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.


The temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to your skull. They’re stabilized by muscles and ligaments that open and close your mouth. Pain or tenderness in or around the joints is referred to as a TMJ disorder.

The causes still aren’t well-known, but most experts agree that trauma to the jaw or temporomandibular joint can lead to it. Other associated conditions include anxiety, stress. and rheumatoid arthritis. The pain can range from mild to severe and treatment generally depends on the severity.


We don’t know yet why people with FMS and ME/CFS appear to be more prone to this condition. When TMJ occurs first, it’s possible that the pain could contribute to the development of central sensitization, which is a hypersensitivity of the central nervous system. That’s believed to be a key component of FMS and ME/CFS.

When the other conditions are diagnosed first, TMJ may be related to lax connective tissues believed to be associated with them. An emerging theory is that all of these conditions may fall under the umbrella term central sensitivity syndromes.

Since people with FMS and ME/CFS feel pain more acutely than others, they may suffer more from numerous painful conditions.


TMJ disorders are most often diagnosed and treated by dentists. There’s no single widely accepted test. Your dentist may check the jaw for tenderness, popping, clicking and difficulty opening and closing your mouth. Your dentist may also see how your teeth fit together by taking an X-ray and a mold of your mouth.

It’s a good idea to ask your regular healthcare provider to rule out other causes of facial pain, such as sinus headaches or earaches. Also, if you have myofascial pain syndrome (which is common in people with FMS), trigger points on the sternocleidomastoid muscles in the front of the neck can cause jaw pain. It’s unknown whether these kinds of trigger points actually cause TMJ or just cause similar symptoms.


Other than headaches, the symptoms are quite distinct from symptoms of FMS and ME/CFS. They include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Discomfort or difficulty chewing
  • Painful clicking in the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Locking jaw
  • Teeth that don’t come together properly

You should bring up any jaw pain with your healthcare provider and dentist right away. TMJ treatment is likely to be more effective if you catch it early.


In some cases, TMJ symptoms go away on their own. If you have persistent symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend either conservative treatments or a more aggressive approach.

Conservative treatments include:

  • Stress reduction
  • No gum chewing
  • Avoiding wide yawning
  • Ice packs
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Aleve (naproxen) and Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen)

More aggressive treatments include orthodontics or surgery. These aggressive treatments are controversial, so you may want to get a second opinion before considering them.

TMJ vs. FMS/ME/CFS Treatment

TMJ treatments don’t generally interfere with FMS or ME/CFS treatments. However, those people with temperature sensitivity may have a hard time tolerating ice packs or recovering from surgery because of their other conditions. Also, some experts believe that many people with ME/CFS are sensitive to certain types of anesthesia, although this has not been proven in clinical studies.

Any time you’re taking medication for more than one condition, you should talk with your healthcare provider and pharmacist about possible drug interactions.

If you’re considering surgery, be sure you to speak to your surgeon about any special needs you may have because of your other conditions.

Even routine dental appointments can be hard on people with these conditions. Make sure you’re prepared for the appointment and know the options for helping you get through it.

A Word From Get Meds Info

The pain of TMJ can make your FMS or ME/CFS more difficult to manage, making treatment especially important.

We’re constantly learning more about the facial pain of TMJ and what it has in common with disorders involving widespread muscle pain. This research could help us better understand TMJ and its relationship to FMS and ME/CFS, leading to better treatment for all of them.

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