You may never believe that any damage to your jaw could result in migraine-type headaches, but since injury or damage to one area can cause acute physical tension that affects other body areas, it’s not surprising as it might first appear. Sometimes damage to temporomandibular joints may contribute a lot to your migraines.
What is TMD?
The temporomandibular joints are the ones that join your jaw to your skull on each side of your head. It’s a highly complex joint that enables you to yawn, chew and talk. The up-and-down and side-to-side movement capability of these joints is fully protected by tiny discs known as condyles, which help the jaw to smoothly glide within the sockets. Any defect that affects the joint is known as temporomandibular disorder or TMD.
When any kind of damage happens to this joint, which could be caused by trauma or daily wear, the symptoms can include:
- A clicking noise when the joint moves
- Ear and facial pain
- Reduced range in opening the mouth
- Trouble biting or chewing
- Tenderness in the jaw
- Jaw pain and headaches
Many doctors believe there is some connection between fibromyalgia and TMD. The jaw pain caused by TMD is quite similar to the joint pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients, and these two conditions often exist side by side. Besides pain in the joints, there are few other shared symptoms that include some frequently experienced by migraineurs, such as:
- Difficulty balancing (often experienced as vertigo in migraine sufferers)
- Hearing or speech difficulties
- Trigeminal neuralgia (which describes pain in the facial nerves)
- Altered sense of smell and taste
A study conducted by University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine into the possibility that some TMD symptoms were mistaken for tension headaches. This study was also extended to mixed migraines and migraine headaches. This study had more women than men because temporomandibular disorders are more prevalent among female patients.
By recreating many tension headache symptoms and close clinical examinations of the tempormandibular joint, researchers have now found that one condition is often misdiagnosed as the other. For many patients, this misdiagnosis results in them getting the wrong treatment. TMD can be treated, but only when you get the right treatment. Mere treatment of a headache means, your headaches will persist forever.
Separating TMD and Migraines
- If you feel you’re suffering from TMD, the best way to reduce the frequency and severity of your migraine lies in tackling your TMD as a separate disorder. I’m listing few signs to watch out for:
- If your jaw joint feels stiff, and you have some problem in opening and closing your mouth to its full extend, you definitely have TMD.
- If there is grinding or crackling sensation or sound when you move your jaw, you may have TMD.
- Aches in ears or tenderness in the face may also indicate problem with temporomandiular joint.
There are many options and strategies that can be tried to see if they ease pain that comes straight from your jaw, such as:
- Give up chewing gum, because it can cause overuse of jaw and may lead to stiffness and inflammation. Instead use mint or mouthwash.
- Try combining chiropractic treatment with some medications to get relief from migraine pain. Your neurologist or physician will prescribe medications to help proper management of migraine symptoms.
- A chiropractor can stretch your tight jaw muscles by using certain massage techniques. In some cases, chiropractor can recommend physical therapy to do that at the home. Sometimes gently massaging the jaw joint area can help ease some tension and reduce inflammation. Basic stretches will slow down the progression of the headache and prevent it from becoming a full-blown migraine.
- Learn relaxation techniques. Tension often gets into the jaw without us realizing it. Keep stress at bay, take breaks from your work, become conscious of when you are clenching your jaw and try to deliberately relax it. Take up yoga as it can reduce stress-based tension.
- Sometimes OTC pain relievers help in reducing pain. This also reduces tension that might lead to even more headache and pain if left untreated.
- Regularly stretch the neck and shoulders. These are two main areas that tense up when we’re feeling stressed.
- Three other body areas can also contribute to migraine pain when they become tense or tight: the neck, the shoulders, and the head. Sometimes it’s helpful to regularly stretch the shoulder and neck because these two areas tense up when you’re feeling stressed. In acute cases, a chiropractor can use chiropractic manipulation when vertebrae in the head or upper spine are misaligned. Gentle realignment can ensure good range of motion and can bring about quick migraine relief.
The pain coming out from damaged temporomandibular join can easily mimic all kinds of headaches from cluster to sinus and onto intense migraine. TMD and migraine symptoms may be related, and are often confused in the medical profession. The main reason is that TMD symptoms are very diverse, and mostly produce migraine-type symptoms.
If you’re suffering from migraine headaches and your doctor has not been able to pinpoint the exact cause, it could be worth investigating the possibility of TMD. At the very worst, maybe, you’ll find that there is absolutely no connection in your case. But there are chances that TMD is the real cause of your migraine headaches, and with proper treatment of this condition, you will be able to bring about a lasting relief.