Temporomandibular disorder and comorbid neck pain: facts and hypotheses regarding pain-induced and rehabilitation-induced motor activity changes

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2018 Nov;96(11):1051-1059. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2018-0100. Epub 2018 Aug 1.


According to the "pain adaptation model", temporomandibular disorder (TMD)-related pain induces a paradoxical activity of masticatory muscles: an agonistic hypoactivity during jaw closing and an antagonistic activity during jaw opening (agonist/antagonist co-activation). However, this model suffers several weaknesses; notably, it does not explain all types of neck muscle activities in neck pain (NP), which is a very prevalent TMD comorbid condition. In NP, neck muscle antagonistic activity is increased, and agonistic activity is decreased as postulated by the pain adaptation model. However, synergistic and compensatory activity may occur and agonistic activity may be unchanged or even increased as postulated within the "vicious cycle theory". Thus, both theories would apply partly as outlined currently in musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Besides pain, psychological stress may also induce motor dysfunction in TMD and NP. In NP, rehabilitation may increase agonistic activity and decrease compensatory activity and antagonistic activity, thus inducing a switch from agonist/antagonist co-activation towards reciprocal inhibition. Thus, rehabilitation-induced motor activity changes constitute a new research field that should improve MSD therapeutics. Additionally, immature tongue function (so-called infantile swallow) might be connected to TMD where low agonistic activity of masticatory muscles would be compensated by facial muscle hyperactivity during oropharyngeal phase of deglutition.

Keywords: activité motrice; cervicalgie; deglutition; déglutition; exercise therapy; habitudes linguales; mastication; motor activity; neck pain; neuronal plasticity; plasticité neuronale; temporomandibular joint disorder; tongue habits; traitement par exercice; trouble de l’articulation temporo-mandibulaire.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Neck Pain / rehabilitation
  • Organ Motion
  • Pain Measurement
  • Temporomandibular Joint / physiopathology*
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / complications*
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Tongue / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome