Recent research results have demonstrated that temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) are complex medical conditions that involve multiple body systems, rather than just a localized jaw condition. The cardiovascular, neurological, immunological, digestive, respiratory, endocrine and musculoskeletal systems contribute to the onset, development and/or persistence of TMJ, as well as influence treatment outcomes.

Conditions that Coexist with TMJ

Scientists have found that 85% of patients with TMJ disorder also suffer from both chronic pain and non-pain conditions in other parts of the body. These conditions are called “comorbid” because they occur together more often than chance can explain. In addition, the conditions share other features, such as similar risk factors, symptoms and underlying disease mechanisms. These findings provide stimulating research into common mechanisms underlying all of these comorbid conditions. Research indicates that TMJ disorders are a set of complex diseases like hypertension or diabetes involving genetic, environmental, behavioral, and sex-related factors. Studies have shown that the following 30 health conditions can coexist with TMJ disorders. Not everyone who develops one of these conditions will go on to develop more; however, many people with TMJ disorders do, particularly women.

The following list of conditions appears in the 2020 National Academy of Medicine report on TMJ:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis in other body joints
  • Asthma
  • Back, neck, and joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis in other body joints
  • Neural/sensory conditions
  • Osteoarthritis in other body joints
  • Poor nutrition due to alerted jaw function and/or pain while chewing
  • Psoriatic arthritis in other body joints
  • Respiratory conditions (e.g., sinus trouble, allergies or hives, asthma, tuberculosis, breathing difficulties)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis in other body joints
  • Sinusitis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia, poor sleep quality, longer sleep latency, lower sleep efficiency)
  • Somatic and psychological symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Vulvodynia

Most of these conditions are ‘diagnoses of exclusion,’ meaning that they are diagnosed after any known causes are ruled out. Due to the lack of awareness and training, misdiagnosis is common and many clinicians are unaware of the inter-relationship of these conditions. It’s important for you to discuss all of your medical conditions with any health care provider you consult, even if you might not think they are related.

To call attention to these poorly understood pain conditions that primarily or exclusively affect women, The TMJ Association co-founded the Chronic Pain Research Alliance (CPRA) in 2009. The CPRA is working to educate federal authorities and advance research to discover mechanisms common to these conditions and safe and effective treatments. For more information, please visit: