Headaches are common symptoms of many conditions. It can be hard to track down the true cause of your headache, which is why many people continue to suffer headaches despite the best efforts of their doctors and even the help of specialists. Fortunately, for many of these people, there is help available. Many people with headaches that don’t respond to conventional treatment actually have TMJ headaches. Temporomandibular joint disorders (also known as TMD) are commonly linked to chronic headaches.
To learn whether TMJ treatment can help with your headaches, please call (509) 927-2273 today for an appointment with a Spokane Valley neuromuscular dentist at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics in Spokane Valley.
What Headaches Are Linked to TMJ?
There are many different types of headaches, but not all of them are linked to TMJ. The ones that we see linked to TMJ most often are:
- Tension headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Referred pain headaches
These headaches may be very different in origin and sensation, but they can all respond well to TMJ treatment.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. And they’re the type most strongly linked to TMJ.
Tension headaches are caused by tense muscles in the head. The most common cause of TMJ is also muscle tension. Your jaw can’t find its proper rest position, so it can never relax. Tension in the jaw continues to build, often for no discernible cause, though tension may also spike after periods of jaw activity.
In many cases, tension headaches are actually caused by the jaw muscles themselves. Jaw muscles are the largest muscles in the head, and the temporalis muscle attaches to the side of the head just behind the eye. Headaches that center here or in the face below the eyes are probably sore jaw muscles. However, tense jaw muscles can pass on their tension to other muscles, which can cause headaches.
Migraines Linked to TMJ
The link between TMJ and migraines is less certain, in part because migraines aren’t well explained.
In many cases, people diagnosed with migraines actually have tension headaches. There are no good tests for migraines, so misdiagnosis is common.
Other times, tension headaches might be triggering your migraines. And TMJ is triggering your tension headaches.
Finally, TMJ could cause migraines by exciting the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is a key stage in the progression of migraines, and it’s also the nerve that carries signals to and from your jaw muscles. When TMJ causes excitation and pain in the jaw muscles, these signals can jam up and overwhelm the trigeminal nerve in people susceptible to migraine. This sets off the migraine chain effect.
Referred Pain Headaches
Referred pain is when pain from one part of the body is felt as coming from another part. This is why people with a heart attack might feel pain in the arm or the jaw. Or maybe they feel organ pain as being from the shoulder. It’s actually a really common phenomenon.
Referred pain headaches are actually coming from your jaw or teeth, they’re just felt as headaches.
Is TMJ Causing Your Headaches?
In truth, the only way to know for sure that TMJ is responsible for your headaches is with a scientific diagnosis. But you should seek out a TMJ diagnosis if:
- Headaches occur after using your jaw (excessive talking, chewing, or teeth grinding)
- You have two or more other TMJ symptoms
- Treatments prescribed by doctor don’t cause relief