Headaches are one of the most common symptoms people experience. As a result, it can be hard to find the precise cause of them. When you don’t know the cause, treatments may not give full relief, may only offer short-term relief, or may come with too many undesired side effects. If you haven’t found a headache treatment that is good for your headaches–including migraines–TMJ may be to blame. If this is the case, TMJ treatment can reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Three Types of Headaches Associated with TMJ
TMJ is a complex disorder, and its relationship to headaches is equally complicated. There are at least three different types that are commonly associated with TMJ:
- Tension headaches
- Referred pain headaches
Each of these has a specific causal relationship to TMJ, and understanding the link also explains the type of pain, and why TMJ treatment works.
Tension Headaches and TMJ
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. In these headaches, pain is caused by tense, exhausted muscles. The link with TMJ is fairly straightforward. In TMJ, your muscles get tense because they are being worked inefficiently or can’t find a good rest position when they’re not working.
The jaw muscles extend from the bottom of the jaw, all the way up to the temples beside and behind the eyes. They also anchor at several points in the face. When these muscles are sore, they can cause a headache, and are often mistaken for a sinus headache. In addition, these muscles partner with other muscles in the head and neck, so their discomfort can sometimes translate into pain in these other muscles, so you can experience pain anywhere in the head and neck due to jaw disorders.
Relaxing jaw muscles will relieve these types.
Migraines and TMJ
There are many potential causes of migraines, and TMJ can often trigger these painful headaches. That’s because one of the central trigger points for migraine is the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve’s primary function is to control and receive signals from the jaw and facial muscles. Branches of the trigeminal nerve can wind among and under jaw muscles.
When the jaw muscles are overworked or painful, they can put pressure on the trigeminal nerve, or they can overstimulate the nerve. This leads to a release of calcitonin gene-related protein (CGRP), which leads to secondary effects that cascade into migraine pain. Controlling the activity level of the jaw muscles can reduce the stimulation of the trigeminal nerve, reducing or eliminating migraines.
Referred Pain Headaches
Another way that TMJ can cause a headache is if what you’re experiencing isn’t really a headache at all. It might actually be jaw pain masquerading as a headache. In referred pain, discomfort may be coming from one place, but it’s felt in another. Jaw or tooth pain often manifests as a headache because your brain can’t discern the exact origin of the pain signals. In this case, relieving the source of pain in the jaw or teeth can lead to headache relief.
Will TMJ Treatment Help Your Headaches?
How do you know whether TMJ treatment can help? It’s impossible to say before we give you an exam, but there are several clues you might look for:
- You have other TMJ symptoms
- Traditional headache remedies don’t give relief or only give partial relief
- Headaches tend to follow intense jaw activity
If one or more of these describe your headaches, then TMJ treatment will likely provide you with relief. To learn for sure whether TMJ treatment will help, please call (907) 274-7691 today for an appointment with an Anchorage TMJ dentist at Denali Dental Care.