How TMJ Can Cause Headaches
TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorder, might seem like an unlikely cause for your headaches. After all, your jaw is down there by your throat and your headache pain is in your temple or behind your eyes.
But did you know that the muscles in your jaw work together with the muscles in your head?
And did you know that the nerves that carry pain from your forehead enter your skull through your spine, and on their way to your spine, they run right by your temporomandibular joint?
And did you know that the pain in your head from eating cold food or drinking cold liquid is actually pain in your mouth that you just think is a headache?
These are all true and they explain the mechanisms that allow TMJ to cause headaches.
TMJ and Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are caused by muscle tension.
When your jaw is out of balance, your jaw muscles have to work harder, and they may become fatigued, and need help by other muscles that are being pulled out of place or put in tension every time you move your jaw. This spreads tension from your jaw into your head and results in tension headaches.
TMJ and Migraines
The exact cause of migraines is poorly understood. It may relate to an expansion of blood vessels in the brain that causes pain, or it may relate to a sudden increased sensitivity in nerves around the blood vessels. But what causes these conditions is unknown, although some research points to the trigeminal nerve as the trigger.
The trigeminal nerve, which carries pain signals from the forehead, face, and jaw, runs right by the temporomandibular joint, and may be irritated as a result of TMJ, which could act as a trigger.
TMJ may also contribute to migraines because tension headaches can act as migraine triggers.
TMJ and Referred Pain Headaches
“Referred pain,” is the technical term for when you have pain in one part of your body, but think it comes from another part. The most common example of this is the ice-cream headache, in which mouth pain is interpreted as a headache because pain signals from the mouth and forehead travel along the same nerve and our brain becomes confused.
In a similar fashion, jaw pain may be interpreted as a headache.
No Matter the Cause, TMJ Treatment Helps Headache Sufferers
Studies have shown that people suffering from chronic headaches and TMJ will see relief from their headaches if they get TMJ treatment. You may not eliminate your headaches, but you will likely reduce their frequency, and may reduce their intensity as well.
If you are currently suffering headaches and relying on pain medication with annoying or dangerous side effects, TMJ treatment can help you reduce your dependence on them.