Nearly everyone experiences headaches, but not everyone experiences chronic headaches, tension headaches, and migraine headaches. Because of how little we know about their mechanisms, headaches and migraines can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat. Too often they are treated with painkillers that simply cover up the symptoms and fail to address the root of the problem.
Strange as it may seem, tension headaches and migraines are a common symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ. If TMJ is the root of your headaches, treating that can also effectively treat your headaches. If you live in or near Burke, VA and think problems with your jaw might be causing your headaches, neuromuscular dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban can help. Call 703-323-8200 or contact us online to make an appointment.
If you have more days with a headache than days without a headache, you may have chronic headaches. And if those headaches are accompanied by symptoms like blurred vision, sensitivity to light or sound, or an “aura” (visual symptoms like seeing spots, lines of light, or blind spots), then you may suffer from chronic migraines.
Chronic headaches or migraines can be extremely disabling, and can prevent sufferers from performing important daily activities like driving, or holding a job. Worse, many people have undergone treatment that has failed to affect the frequency or severity of their headaches.
Headaches and TMJ Are Linked
Medical researchers are still not entirely sure what causes migraines, and triggers vary greatly between patients. But tension headaches and migraines can often result from the jaw imbalance characteristic of TMJ.
TMJ can result from malocclusion, known more commonly as a “bad bite.” This imbalance in the bite creates extreme tension in the complex, fragile system of bones and tissues that make up the jaw. This tension can affect seemingly unrelated parts of the body, resulting in symptoms as varied as ringing in the ears, pain in the lower back, and even numbness or tingling in the fingers. TMJ-related jaw tension can even cause headaches so severe that they may be diagnosed as migraines.
This may seem improbable, but the jaw is closely related to all of the systems and structures in your head. The nerve responsible for pain in your forehead — called the trigeminal nerve — runs very close to the temporomandibular joint on its way to connect with the spine. Branches of the trigeminal nerve supply and also weave in and out of your jaw muscles. Pressure on the joint can affect that nerve, signaling pain to the forehead. TMJ also causes muscle tension in the jaw as your body does its best to pull your misaligned bite into place. And sometimes this muscle tension puts pressure on the trigeminal nerve. Not to mention that our bodies can sometimes mix up where pain signals are coming from, a phenomenon known as “referred pain.”
Drug-Free Headache Treatment
The good news is, if your headaches are a result of TMJ, TMJ treatment can reduce or eliminate your headaches without painkillers. Many people with TMJ find that treatment from an experienced neuromuscular dentist reduces the frequency and severity of their headaches or migraines.
Your dentist can treat TMJ by retraining your jaw to rest in the position of least tension. Some people may see good results simply from electrical stimulation from a TENS Unit, or medications that encourage the muscles to relax. Your dentist may create a custom mouth guard to wear at night that will help teach your jaw muscles to default to their healthiest position. For some people, the best treatment might be permanently adjusting your bite with dental crowns or braces, like Invisalign.
If TMJ symptoms continue for too long without treatment, your temporomandibular joint may be too damaged to be corrected without surgery. For this reason, it’s best to seek treatment immediately if you suspect you may suffer from TMJ.
If you live in or near Burke, VA and think your headaches may be resulting from TMJ, Dr. Pamela Marzban can help you find the perfect treatment for your needs. Call 703-323-8200 or contact us online to learn more about how TMJ treatment can help your headaches or migraines.