If you suffer from frequent headaches or face pain, then you might understand why people frequently rate pain in the head or face as more disruptive than pain anywhere else in the body. Now, thanks to researchers at Duke University, we know why.
According to a study reported by Duke Today, the reason we experience pain in these areas more intensely than any other region is because these regions are wired directly into the brain’s principal emotional signaling hubs, make the process more intense. Pain carried from the body are carried by different groups of sensory neurons which are not directly tied to emotional signaling.
If you’ve had to call into work because of a headache, or canceled on a social event because of pain located in the jaw, you understand how this kind of pain can significantly decrease you’re quality of life. But there may be a solution.
Your Headache May Be More Than a Headache
Suffering from frequent headaches and face pain can be linked to other issues, including TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorders. The temporomandibular joint acts as a hinge on which many of the facial muscles rest, and any disorder which compromises it can causes a number of symptoms, including:
- Jaw Pain or Muscle Spasms
- Jaw Clicking or Popping
- Tinnitus and Earaches
- Upper Back Pain
If your headaches are accompanied by these symptoms, than it may be sign that your headaches are linked to TMJ. The cause of these disorders can vary from patient to patient, but commonly arise in conjunction with grinding of the teeth due to stress, arthritis of the joint, or trauma.
How Can it Cause Headaches?
The process is very similar to how toothaches can lead to headaches. Because the temporomandibular joint supports several muscle groups extending into the head, any pain caused by TMJ can be misinterpreted by our brain as a headache. In addition, jaw muscles extend all the way up the side of the head to attach at the temples, so their pain might actually be your headache. When you add in muscle pain from muscles that work with the jaw muscles, TMJ pain can manifest anywhere in the head, neck, or upper back. Jaw muscles are also the main muscles controlled by the trigeminal nerve, the source of migraines. When jaw muscles get stressed, they can overwhelm the trigeminal nerve, which may trigger migraines.
Treat the Source to Stop the Pain
It’s a simple rule. Reducing the complications which cause the pain in the first place will treat the pain altogether. If you believe your headaches are caused by TMJ, there are a few steps you can take.
- Cut out gum or hard foods
- Massage your jaw daily
- Stretch your neck daily
If you’ve tried these steps or similar ones, than it may be time to schedule an appointment. TMJ is a progressive disorder, meaning that the longer you wait, the more painful and costly treatment can become. By seeing a dentist, they can provide drug-free treatments that will alleviate stress on the joint, leading to recovery.