Can TMJ Treatment Help Your Headaches?
Headaches are complicated and nonspecific symptoms that can be related to many conditions and diseases. So how can you tell if they are related to TMJ and might benefit from TMJ treatment?
It’s worth considering TMJ treatment if you either:
- Aren’t getting good results from current treatments
- Experience headaches after jaw activity
- Have other TMJ symptoms
If any of the above are true, TMJ might be contributing to your headaches, and if more than one is true, it’s likely that TMJ is a major and potentially the primary cause.
If your current headache treatments aren’t giving good relief or come with too many side effects, it might be because they don’t address the true cause of your headaches. It’s worth investigating other potential headache causes. TMJ treatment might give better results with less reliance on medications.
If jaw activity triggers your headaches, it’s a good sign that TMJ is causing or contributing to your migraines. Jaw activity isn’t just chewing, yawning, or talking. Often, it’s clenching or grinding your teeth that are the link between stress and headaches.
Finally, watch for other TMJ symptoms that might show you have jaw dysfunction. There are dozens of potential symptoms, and almost no one has them all. Still, if you have jaw sounds, irregular jaw motion, jaw pain, neck pain, or ear-related symptoms like tinnitus, it’s likely you have TMJ.
Headache Types Linked to TMJ
TMJ is a condition that affects the muscles, nerves, and other parts of the head and neck. Because of complex, interlinked effects, TMJ is associated with several different types of headaches, including:
- Tension headaches
- Sinus headaches
- Referred pain headaches
Any and all of these might be linked to your TMJ. TMJ treatment can reduce their impact, frequency, or severity.
Tension headaches are very common. They can range from mild to severe and disabling.
They are felt in the muscles. They often feel as if a band or clamp was placed on the head, then tightened down and can last for hours or days.
Tension headaches have the most straightforward links to TMJ. Your jaw muscles are the largest and most powerful muscles in the head and jaw dysfunction causes pain or tension. The pain might be related to the jaw muscles themselves–which extend up the sides of your head to your temples, or it might be in the muscles your jaws partner with.
Tension headaches and migraines can trigger each other.
Migraines are more than headaches; they’re complex neurological disorders with headaches as one of the most common symptoms. Migraine pain is usually felt on one side of the head and ranges in intensity from moderate to severe and disabling.
In addition to headache pain, people with migraines often experience symptoms like:
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Visual artifacts like dancing lights
Migraine attacks usually last from a few hours to several days. In addition, people with migraines sometimes experience a prodrome. During the prodrome–which can last for hours to days before the migraine attack–people may experience depressed mood, moodiness, irritability, and lower-intensity forms of the related migraine symptoms. People might also experience an aura phase in which they see visual artifacts, lose their vision, or experience tingling and numbness. After the migraine attack, some people experience postdrome, sometimes called a “migraine hangover.” Although the pain and nausea are gone, they might have fatigue, moodiness, and cognitive impairment for a day or two after the migraine.
We don’t fully understand migraines, so we don’t fully understand how they’re linked to TMJ. The trigeminal nerve is a common trigger point for migraines. This nerve carries signals from the brain to the jaw muscles and carries pain signals back from the muscles to the brain. Overactive jaw muscles and/or intense jaw muscle pain can overwhelm the trigeminal nerve, which causes the release of CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide), which triggers migraines. CGRP inhibitors are one of the newest classes of migraine medications, but TMJ treatment could head off CGRP release without medication.
In addition, branches of the trigeminal nerve weave under and through various jaw muscles. Overactive jaw muscles can pressure the trigeminal nerve, leading to migraines.
Sinus headaches are felt in the central face, around the nose, and through the entire volume of the sinuses. True sinus headaches are related to infection, irritation, and congestion of the sinuses.
However, many people feel sinus pain related to other causes, such as pressure on the trigeminal nerve or referred pain. If you experience “sinus headaches” but don’t have congestion, a sinus infection, or allergies, these might be TMJ headaches.
Referred Pain Headaches
Referred pain is a strange phenomenon. It occurs when pain in one part of the body is actually felt in a different place. A heart attack is a common example: it can trigger pain in the arm or the jaw in addition to (or sometimes instead of) pain in the chest.
Referred pain headaches can be jaw pain, tooth pain, ear pain, or other TMJ-related pain that you feel as a headache.
Headache and Migraine Relief in Minneapolis
If you are not getting good results from your current headache treatment or dislike the side effects of your treatment, TMJ treatment might help. It can reduce the frequency and severity of many types of headaches, often without medication. Minneapolis neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kevin Bril can evaluate your jaw to determine if you will benefit from TMJ treatment.
To learn whether TMJ treatment can help your headaches or migraines, please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online form to request an appointment at Brilliant Dentistry, serving the Minneapolis area from Eden Prairie, MN.