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Tinnitus and neck pain

Tinnitus and central sensitization

March 04, 20242 min read

Did you know that tinnitus is more common among people with physical ailments like chronic neck pain and temporomandibular disorder? Many experts feel that this is a distinct subset of tinnitus that may respond to different treatments. If a person can modulate their tinnitus by moving or applying pressure to their neck, jaw, or face, we refer to it as somatic or somatosensory tinnitus. In addition, many researchers have observed similarities between chronic pain and tinnitus. One group has hypothesized that both tinnitus and chronic pain may be influenced by central sensitization, a process in which neural signals are inappropriately amplified within the central nervous system due to potentially maladaptive neuroplastic changes.

A recent European study published in PLOS One [De Meulemeester K,et al. PLoS One. 2023 Aug 24;18(8)] investigated signs of central sensitization in patients with tinnitus alone, tinnitus and neck pain, neck pain alone, and healthy controls. They observed significant evidence of central sensitization in participants with tinnitus when compared with healthy controls. The greatest evidence of central sensitization was observed in those participants with both tinnitus and neck pain. Signs and symptoms of central sensitization were also observed to be correlated with other variables like tinnitus distress, pain-related disability, psychological burden and sleep disturbances.

Why is this important? Well, other research has demonstrated that patients with somatic tinnitus can observe improvements in their tinnitus if their co-existing neck pain or temporomandibular disorder is treated with interventions like physical therapy or cervical spine surgery. Perhaps future treatments aimed at reducing central sensitization may also produce reductions in tinnitus among this population. This is important knowledge for those millions of people out there with somatic tinnitus. The outlook is not hopeless. Despite what you may have been told, there are interventions that have been shown in clinical research to improve the burden of tinnitus. We have so much more to share with you if you join us at www.AlleviateTinnitusTherapy.com

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