Headaches are the most common source of pain and may be one of the top reasons people miss work or school. You may chalk your head pain up to stress and anxiety, but if you’re experiencing headaches often, it may be a symptom of a more chronic condition such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. As orthodontic experts, we know how TMJ can lead to chronic headaches and can provide treatment and relief from your pain.
What is TMJ disorder?
Your TMJ connects your jaw to your skull and helps support the opening and closing of your mouth. TMJ disorder is the sensation of pain in the joint or muscles of your jaw, making it difficult for you to open and close your mouth. We’re not sure why some people experience this pain while others don’t, but it may be due to your genetics or from arthritis. Injury to your jaw can also lead to TMJ disorder.
Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Pain in your jaw or the actual joint that connect the jaw to skull
- Difficulty chewing
- Lockjaw or having a hard time opening your mouth
- Clicking or grinding sensation at the joint
- Ear or head pain
The TMJ headache
You aren’t alone if you think your head pain is related to tension and not TMJ disorder. Many headache doctors often misdiagnose chronic headaches as tension headaches when they may, in fact, be related to TMJ. Tracking your headaches and other symptoms may be able to help you better determine the source of your chronic head pain. If you’re getting headaches and also have jaw clicking or locking, or feel that the pain starts in your jaw or ear, you may be experiencing a TMJ headache, not a tension headache.
Although a TMJ headache can’t cause migraine head pain, it may trigger a migraine.
Home remedies for TMJ headaches
Being proactive and making a few changes at home may help prevent your TMJ headaches.
The best way to prevent a full-blown headache is to stop the pain as soon as it starts. If you start to feel a headache coming on, take over-the-counter pain medication to keep the pain away.
Stress causes your muscles to tense up, including the muscles in your jaw. If it’s TMJ that’s causing your chronic headaches, using tools to manage your stress may help prevent a headache from forming. Exercise and meditation are two great stress relievers. Carving out a little time for yourself to relax may also help prevent a TMJ headache. Massaging your jaw muscles when you feel them tensing up may also work to prevent a TMJ headache.
Minimize unnecessary chewing
If you chew gum and headaches are a common problem, you might want to cut out the gum. Instead, freshen your breath with mint or use mouthwash. Drink water to keep your mouth busy.
Treating your TMJ
We can also help improve your TMJ pain to reduce your headaches, too. In addition to the over-the-counter pain relievers, we may recommend a muscle relaxant to help minimize pain. We can also provide a night guard to protect your teeth and jaw from grinding. We can also fit you for an advanced functional lightwire (ALF) device to improve jaw size and relieve pain.
If you think your chronic headaches are related to TMJ, we can help diagnose and treat both your TMJ and the headaches. Call or book an appointment with the online booking agent.