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The human body is simultaneously so complicated and so interconnected in its processes that it isn’t usually surprising when a challenge impacting one part of the body starts to impact others. For example, arthritis patients suffer high rates of inflammation in the body that typically manifest as pain in the joints. Joint pain can then cause unaffected parts of the body to overcompensate, which leads to pain and imbalance in these areas that aren’t primarily struggling due to the patient’s underlying arthritic condition.

Workers who operate in particularly stressful and/or physically demanding positions often understand this phenomenon of interconnected physical tension, strain, and harm all too well. It is understandable, for example, that workers who stand on their feet all day on an assembly line would struggle with soreness in each foot, their legs, and possibly their backs. But their arms, shoulders, neck, head, and jaw? The slightest adjustments and demands on a worker’s physical positioning can lead to tension throughout the body, including the jaw. As can mental and emotional stress, which subconsciously causes many workers to clench this particular hinge joint.

TMJ: The Basics

As an experienced TMJ treatment specialist can confirm, many workers develop TMJ as a result of physical, mental, and emotional stresses related to their occupations. Some even develop TMJ due to work-related accidents and/or exposure to toxic substances.

TMJ is an umbrella acronym that is both used to describe the twin temporomandibular joints that connect the jawbone to the skull and the disorders that affect one or both of these joints. TMJ may also be used to describe disorders of the muscles near the temporomandibular joints that control jaw movement.

When a worker develops TMJ as a result of any number of employment-related factors, they may experience pain (that can be mild, moderate, severe, or debilitating), locked jaw, weight loss due to how difficult TMJ renders the task of eating, and a host of other challenges. They may ultimately need to seek workers’ compensation benefits or other forms of compensation due to financial consequences associated with this form of occupational harm.

Development of Work-Related TMJ

TMJ is caused by a number of different influences. Some patients are genetically predisposed to this condition. Others develop TMJ due to arthritis or other inflammatory autoimmune conditions. Still others develop TMJ due to traumatic conditions, like work-related accidents that cause a blow to the face to misalign the jaw. And finally, many people develop TMJ because the stress of their jobs or other challenges cause them to clench their jaw and/or grind their teeth.

Work-related TMJ is likely far more common than most people realize. While an acute blow to the face is generally a clear indicator of how some TMJ cases develop, many workers may not realize that they clench their jaws when they’re completing physically demanding occupational tasks or that the toxic chemicals they’ve been exposed to have resulted in the inflammation that is dramatically affecting their joints. If you believe that you’ve developed work-related TMJ, it is probably time to speak with both a TMJ specialist and an attorney from the offices of Mark T. Hurt.