Headaches are among the most common symptoms people suffer. Unfortunately, they can be caused by so many things that it can be hard to precisely diagnose the cause of your headaches. In fact, many doctors don’t consider TMJ as a potential cause of headaches. If your doctor’s treatments haven’t been helping, maybe it’s time to see a neuromuscular dentist about your headaches.
Tension Headaches and TMJ
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches, more common than all other types of headaches combined. They are caused by muscle contractions of stressed muscles in the head and neck.
Your jaw muscles are actually the most powerful muscles in your head, and they have the ability to trigger serious headaches. In fact, the pain you’re feeling may actually be in the jaw muscles themselves, since the jaw muscles extend from the lower part of your jaw all the way up to where they attach on either side of the head just behind the eyes.
Even if the pain is not directly in the jaw muscles, it can be strongly influenced by them, since the powerful jaw muscles partner with muscles from the neck all the way to the top of your head. When your jaw muscles are stressed, they enlist help from partner muscles, passing their tension on.
The link between TMJ and tension headaches may be moderated by:
- Teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism, either at day or night)
- Bad habits like chewing on nonfoods
- Physical activity, including exercise or heavy lifting
- High levels of jaw activity, whether talking or chewing
If you notice that your headaches tend to follow on any of these behaviors or stimuli, you should consider the possibility that TMJ is the root cause.
How TMJ Treatment Resolves Tension Headaches
TMJ treatment restores balance to your jaw system. When your jaw system is out of balance, your muscles are constantly working against the other elements in the system, such as your bones, teeth, and jaw joints. This creates tension and soreness, which contributes to tension headaches.
When your jaw system is put back into balance, the level of tension in your jaw muscles is dramatically reduced, and you’ll find that your tension headaches reduce dramatically in frequency–some people seem them virtually disappear.
Migraine Headaches and TMJ
Migraine headaches are usually triggered by stimuli from the trigeminal nerve. Neurotransmitters released from the trigeminal nerve cause the blood vessels in the brain to expand, which puts pressure on the brain, causing intense pain. We still haven’t identified all the reasons why the trigeminal nerve does this, but it often seems to relate to overstimulation, overwork, or pressure on the nerve.
One of the primary functions of the trigeminal nerve is to control the jaw muscles and to take sensations from them back to the brain. This means that when the jaw muscles are being overworked, or are sending a lot of signals back to the brain, it could result in overload of the trigeminal nerve. In addition, branches of the trigeminal nerve interweave with various jaw muscles. So when jaw muscles are contracting tightly, they can put pressure on the trigeminal nerve.
How TMJ Treatment Can Help Resolve Migraines
Essentially, the goal is similar to that for tension headaches. Reducing stress in the jaw muscles can reduce or eliminate overload in the trigeminal nerve. This reduces the risk of trigeminal nerve overload. And reducing muscle activity also reduces the pressure that jaw muscles might be putting on the trigeminal nerve.
It’s actually similar to the effect that BOTOX ® achieves for treating migraines, but instead of actually paralyzing your muscles, TMJ treatment just makes them work efficiently and peacefully the way they are supposed to.
TMJ and Sleep Apnea Headaches
Another common cause of headaches is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes your breathing to stop many times at night, causing you to wake up repeatedly, even though you may not know you’re waking up. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll feel the effects, though: a sense of unrest, as if you haven’t really slept, and a morning headache.
TMJ and sleep apnea commonly occur together and people often suffer from both types of headaches. The conditions can be further confused because many people with TMJ wake up with a tension headache because of nightly teeth grinding (bruxism).
Can TMJ Treatment Help Your Headaches?
If you aren’t getting good results from your headache or migraine treatment, you should consider TMJ treatment as an alternative that might provide relief.