Pain in the Jaw? It could be signs of a heart attack.

tn_Female TMJ painBy Marianne Ryan PT, OCS

Since I am a TMJ specialist, I see many patients who complain of jaw pain. One of the most important things we can do as physical therapists is to ask some specific questions during the initial visit to rule out other potential problems.

If someone complains of jaw pain I always make a point of asking when they feel the jaw pain, what makes it worse, and what makes it go away. If they feel jaw pain when exercising or during certain activities and if it goes away when they stop, I see a BIG RED FLAG.

Some of the most common heart attack symptoms may include chest pain which can spread to your shoulder and jaw. Pain in the shoulder or jaw may show up as early pre-heart attack symptoms and should be evaluated by your doctor. If the pain in your chest, shoulder or jaw is brought on by activity, such as walking, and then goes away with rest, it is important to report this to your doctor. Any pain that is brought on by activity and goes away with rest should be investigated as possible cardiac symptoms. 

4 thoughts on “Pain in the Jaw? It could be signs of a heart attack.

  1. MRPT Physical Therapy Post author

    From Dr Jakub S. Malinowski Knowler
    Hello and good evening! 
Its interesting why exactly this question co-notate the origin of a pain to the heart problem? 
As long as the correct answer is “yes” there also is a little bit more about it. Namely, if a serious cardiac problem arises and thus when its failure produces a paint to the jaw, it means that some other symptoms from the heart have to appear as well! No doubt – such a heart dysfunction which leads to its infarct, is always well recognized by disturbances within the heart rate and sounds, then secondary symptoms go to the belly and to the whole chest radiating pain to the neck, arm (s), and head. There may be, however, that some minute infarcts do not produce all of those symptoms, so then if at the same time there is a damage tooth, or a oversensitive for some reason jugular nerve then the domineering pain can appear firstly in the jaw. But , it in fact there is a heart failure, very soon after a huge wave of pain overwhelm our body with very significant consequences. 
As here is not a lecture room, I do not want to make you bored with too much medical theory. generally, a pain in the jaw, gives us a direction to the teeth, or muscles and neurological issue. Further when those excluded it can become a inflamed jugular joint, or even a radiated signal from a neighboring tissue and an organ. It can be an infective change – an abscess or even a dry -“sterile” inflammation”. These last can be related to some carcinogenic changes as a primary or the secondary abnormalities if a metastases come to the point. 
At last, it can be a change from a rheumatism-related problem or after an injury. 
Nevertheless if a cardiac reason, we will be very well informed by other symptoms from different part of the body including the heart from itself! 
In the end: as a pain always is a kind of signal from the body incorrectness, it should be taken seriously and I would strongly advise a help, a consultation at he main altar: from a good doctor! 
I hope it is enough – and nobody of us will have such a problem to experience on our own neither none of our patient would require an emergency treatment from us, wishing you a good night and a healthy time 
Yours sincerely 
Dr Jakub S. Malinowski Knowler

  2. MRPT Physical Therapy Post author

    Thank you Jakub for your lengthy and important discussion about the other reasons for jaw pain. I created the little “blog” entry as a patient friendly handout to make people aware that jaw pain should not be ignored. After reading your comment, there are a lot of things to considered when it comes to jaw pain, it can be very complex. 

    I wanted to discuss this simple point with the general public and to remind health professionals to look for it because my fathers wife who is 75 started developing jaw pain over this summer. She just ignored it for several months and didn’t think much of it.
    To make a long story short her carotid artery was 90% occluded and she had a stent put in a month ago.. I think it is a symptom we all should know about 🙂

  3. MRPT Physical Therapy Post author

    Dr Jakub S. Malinowski Knowler • Hi, Dear Marianne, 
certainly, your described case is one of those, that lots of people ignore for some reason. Actually I do not understand such attitude and many times i was a witness to some health disorders when suggested a check-up i was attacked on basis of tactless behavior, or so… The world become so strange now, it looks like better to keep mouth shut , but it is not my role as a doctor and the medical person. Although I deal with every person in the most tactful manner, some others believe their life and health shouldn’t bother me… 
By the way it would be interesting for us, all the participants in this conversation to know to what extend the stent brought an expected relief? As a cardio-vascular surgery specialist I am especially interested in this matter. 
It is nice to hear, well to read from you and should I become useful at a time to you, You are very welcome to contact me. Of course, you can use any of my “publicly” issued statement or comment in your blog or to any other person and place, just to mark it came out of my mouth. 
Best Regards and Good night 

  4. Dr. Thomas Horch

    Hi, I am Dr. Thomas Horch, G.P. Dentist and Medical Director at Bin Arab Dental Centre Dubai. Since 30 years I am practising TMJD and CMD. I wrote many articles and have a lot of power presentations on this. It would be great, if we can discuss this and find a way to change experiences. Best regards Dr. Thomas


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