What Is Craniofacial Pain, and Why Do You Have It?

Craniofacial pain can be defined as persistent pain in the face but also includes the neck and
head. Patients may feel certain “trigger points” in which the pain is more significant, but mostly
patients describe an aching or even a burning or numb feeling when it comes to craniofacial
pain.

Patients who experience craniofacial pain may have headaches, earaches, or even neck pain,
although the symptoms will vary from person to person based on the root cause of the
discomfort [1]. Why would a person experience craniofacial pain?

TMJ Disorders

The most common reason that people have chronic facial pain is due to the
temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ disorders refer specifically to the joint that connects the upper and lower jaw. This joint is powerful and complex; however, it’s also prone to certain problems.

Due to a bite misalignment, teeth grinding, or a unique facial structure, a person could have a
TMJ disorder that causes symptoms such as a clicking jaw, inability to fully open their mouth,
and facial pain.

TMJ disorders are treatable so don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your dentist if you
have craniofacial pain that could be the result of a problem with your TMJ.

Stress

It sounds like an odd thing to cause craniofacial pain, but it’s true: stress can trigger chronic
facial pain.

Constant physical or psychological stress can lead to muscle tension that can radiate
throughout the neck and head. Poor posture could be involved as well—when the body is
constantly trying to compensate for an incorrect position, neck or upper back pain can be the
result.

Depending on what’s causing your stress, you can work to manage your daily stressors and curb
your craniofacial pain with the help of your physician.

Sleep Disorders

Although the connection between sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and
craniofacial pain isn’t well understood, many medical professionals acknowledge that there is a
connection between the two [2].

In addition, sleep issues and TMJ disorders can often coexist. While not every person who
experiences craniofacial pain will have a sleep disorder—and vice versa—it may be worth ruling
out a sleep issue when addressing your chronic facial pain with your dentist.

Symptoms of a potential sleep disorder include daytime fatigue, headaches, snoring, mood
disorders, waking up frequently at night, or even memory loss. If your dentist suspects you
suffer from a sleep disorder, he or she will refer you to a sleep specialist for further diagnosis.

What’s Causing Your Craniofacial Pain?

The causes of craniofacial pain will vary from person to person, so your treatment plan will be
custom to you. Managing your pain may require a multi-faceted approach depending on what
the cause is suspected to be.

The good news is that you don’t have to live with chronic facial pain. There is treatment and
hope, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist to begin determining the
cause!

Sources:

1. http://www.abcp-us.org/resources/imposter.cfm
2. https://www.aapmd.org/craniofacial-pain-treatments