TMJ Symptoms

TMJ Migraines and Headaches

Headaches and migraines are conditions that many people suffer from. These frustrating ailments can be severe and chronic, leading to a lower quality of life and even more severe health issues down the road. While some people attribute their issues to sinus troubles or stress, it may come as a surprise that TMJ disorders can be the cause of the problem. Tension headaches and migraines are common among those who suffer from issues related to the way their teeth bite and function and its effect on the Temporo-Mandibular Joint. This lesser-known issue can cause problems that are hard to ignore. But treating migraines and headaches is easier once patients and physicians understand the disorder has a dental component.

What is a TMJ Disorder?

The Temporo-Mandibular Joint is located in front of your ears. It is a unique joint in the body. If you look at your finger joints it rotate to move. The TMJ has to slide and rotate to move the lower jaw. This makes it a complicated body part to treat. As well, the TMJ is not the center of jaw movement. That is the purpose of your teeth. The TMJ is more of a gliding guide in jaw movement. It is a slave to where the upper and lower teeth meet and how the upper and lower teeth function with each other in chewing, clenching and grinding. It is the sense of teeth touching that becomes the director of the chewing functioning opera.

A TMJ disorder (TMJD) is therefore a dysfunction of the actions and movements of the lower jaw as the lower teeth orchestrates with the upper teeth. TMJD often involves damage or strain to structures (the TMJ complex of bones and ligaments and tendons), strain to muscles (jaw muscles and neck muscles), nerves of the head and neck, growth to the head and jaws, eruption of teeth, and limitations to airway passages at the back of the mouth.

There are over 46 different possible signs and symptoms of TMJD’s and you are not limited to just one. You can have one or two or many. As well, the chronicity (how often it is a problem) and severity (how much pain it may cause) vary with every person. If you do the math (an we have) there is are 8.16 X 1047 potential different presentations of TMJD. This means that there are more ways someone can have TMJD problems than there are stars in our Galaxy.

What is a TMJ Disorder?

The Temporo-Mandibular Joint is located in front of your ears. It is a unique joint in the body. If you look at your finger joints it rotate to move. The TMJ has to slide and rotate to move the lower jaw. This makes it a complicated body part to treat. As well, the TMJ is not the center of jaw movement. That is the purpose of your teeth. The TMJ is more of a gliding guide in jaw movement. It is a slave to where the upper and lower teeth meet and how the upper and lower teeth function with each other in chewing, clenching and grinding. It is the sense of teeth touching that becomes the director of the chewing functioning opera.

A TMJ disorder (TMJD) is therefore a dysfunction of the actions and movements of the lower jaw as the lower teeth orchestrates with the upper teeth. TMJD often involves damage or strain to structures (the TMJ complex of bones and ligaments and tendons), strain to muscles (jaw muscles and neck muscles), nerves of the head and neck, growth to the head and jaws, eruption of teeth, and limitations to airway passages at the back of the mouth.

There are over 46 different possible signs and symptoms of TMJD’s and you are not limited to just one. You can have one or two or many. As well, the chronicity (how often it is a problem) and severity (how much pain it may cause) vary with every person. If you do the math (an we have) there is are 8.16 X 1047 potential different presentations of TMJD. This means that there are more ways someone can have TMJD problems than there are stars in our Galaxy.

Tension Headaches

Tension Headaches
These are headaches that arise from muscle spasms caused by long term clenching or grinding of the teeth. Tension headaches are basically muscle strains called trigger points. Trigger points are mini-spasms of the muscle in question. Tension headaches are usually from the ‘Temporalis muscle’ in the temple area of the head. These are the nasty midday headache that makes you want to massage your temples.

The cause of the muscle strain is bite related. How you use muscles of the jaw to bite can create strain in the temporalis muscle and when the muscle fatigues, the trigger point forms and the pain radiates out. Massaging the area behind the eyes will help relieve the pain to some extent.

Other muscles can be involved with tension headaches and these include the front and back neck muscles. The sternocleidomastoid muscle in front of the neck can give you a headache above your eyes. The Trapezius muscle at the back of your neck can cause a headache behind the ears and behind your eyes (the latter is often mistaken for a “Sinus Headache”).

Migraine Headaches

There is still debate on the cascade of events that cause a Migraine headache. One thing is clear; the stimulus is an increase pressure in the lining of the brain called the Dura Mater. This pressure can come from dilation of blood vessels in the Dura Mater or from restriction of blood flow out of the head.

The dilation of blood vessels can be caused by the release of a chemical called CGRP. It is a vasodilator and it is released from the same nerve group that lets you know your teeth are touching or that you have sinus pressure. Too much stimulation of this nerve (the trigeminal nerve) can trigger the release of CGRP and the start of a “Brian Storm” that leads to the Migraine.

The blood flow out of the brain is mostly through the Jugular Vein in your neck. It can be constricted by a rotation of the first neck vertebrae called the Atlas. Coincidentally, the Atlas can be forced to rotate from a balanced and neutral position by the way the teeth bite (occlusion). How our jaws function can alter the alignment of the head and neck both positively and negatively.

Fun Fact: Your jugular vein allows 10X more blood flow when you lay down. That is why migraine sufferers often seek a bed to rest in when the migraine attacks. It helps decrease the cause of the pain when you are lying down.

Migraine Headaches

There is still debate on the cascade of events that cause a Migraine headache. One thing is clear; the stimulus is an increase pressure in the lining of the brain called the Dura Mater. This pressure can come from dilation of blood vessels in the Dura Mater or from restriction of blood flow out of the head.

The dilation of blood vessels can be caused by the release of a chemical called CGRP. It is a vasodilator and it is released from the same nerve group that lets you know your teeth are touching or that you have sinus pressure. Too much stimulation of this nerve (the trigeminal nerve) can trigger the release of CGRP and the start of a “Brian Storm” that leads to the Migraine.

The blood flow out of the brain is mostly through the Jugular Vein in your neck. It can be constricted by a rotation of the first neck vertebrae called the Atlas. Coincidentally, the Atlas can be forced to rotate from a balanced and neutral position by the way the teeth bite (occlusion). How our jaws function can alter the alignment of the head and neck both positively and negatively.

Fun Fact: Your jugular vein allows 10X more blood flow when you lay down. That is why migraine sufferers often seek a bed to rest in when the migraine attacks. It helps decrease the cause of the pain when you are lying down.

Finding a TMJ Migraine and Headache Cure

One of the main ways to treat TMJD related migraines and headaches is to ensure proper blood flow to the skull. This can sometimes be done with the help of an upper cervical chiropractor. In addition, some people utilize a dental therapy directed to ensure that teeth do not create muscle and structural strain and that stimulus to grind their teeth is reduced. TMJD related Migraine treatment and headache treatment can help patients deal with pain and prevent or reduce the occurrence.

Understanding the root cause of these issues allows health care providers to implement the TMJD related migraine and headache therapy that you want.

TMJ.Today offers educational courses designed to help sufferers of TMJ disorders and physicians further their understanding of this issue and its symptoms. To find out more, click here.

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