Neck Pain and Yawning

Neck pain and yawning may be connected in some people without them even realising. Patients with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) often experience face, jaw, or neck pain when yawning, as can those with trigeminal neuralgia, carotidynia, or cervical spinal stenosis. Some people develop chin cramps, headaches, ear pain, sinus pain, and shoulder, throat, or arm pain from yawning. Understanding why yawning is causing neck pain or other pain can help a patient to address the underlying problem as it is inevitable that yawning will occur again and again, sometimes triggering neck pain.

What is Yawning?

Yawning is a natural occurrence that usually signifies tiredness, hunger, boredom, or stress in humans. In some animals it is a pre-coital behavior trait and in others, such as dogs, it can act as a calming signal to pack members to show that something or somebody is not a threat. A number of different neurotransmitters are involved in yawning and several of these are also involved in the sensation of pain. Dopamine, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, opioid peptides, and nitric oxide are just some of the influences on yawning. Understanding the mechanism behind yawning means that the occurrence of excessive or compulsive yawning can serve as a diagnostic tool in itself. Those suffering from frequent migraines, for example, may experience an increase in yawning as part of migraine prodrome which could then help them take steps to prevent the migraine or reduce its impact. Dopamine is also sometimes used in cases of excessive yawning along with sudden leg movements during sleep.

Yawning, Neck Pain, and Throat Cramps

A fairly common occurrence that can cause acute distress is sudden cramping in the chin, underneath the jaw, when yawning. The movement of the tongue during a yawn, as well as the muscles in the jaw and neck, can mean that cramp occurs. Unlike a cramp in the leg, a chin cramp is difficult to stretch out and it is often simply time that helps alleviate the condition. A warm compress may also help, as can drinking warm water. Where this occurs frequently it may indicate an underlying problem such as chronic inflammation from gum disease, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, or even an enlarged thyroid gland or other neck structure which requires evaluation. Dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, are also contributing factors to cramps, as well as creating fatigue which precedes neck pain and yawning.

Read more about the symptoms of neck pain and yawning.

Last Updated: 04/03/2012