Headaches and TMJ Problems


Over half of adults in the United States have experienced chronic or recurrent pain of different kinds in the past year. Severe headache or migraines are the second most common pain complaint, experienced by 15% of the population. When most headaches are harmless and usually resolve on their own, some types of severe headaches can recur frequently and affect our everyday life, making it difficult to function properly.

There are over 150 types of headaches, but the most common types include: tension, migraine, cluster, daily chronic headaches, cranial neuralgias, and headaches being a consequence of underlying conditions, such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction, vascular disorders, sinus issues or tumors. One of the most common secondary pains that is typical for hair stylists, carpenters, and truck drivers is cervicogenic headache and it is related to problems with the bones in a neck (vertebrae), joints, or neck muscles.


A headache can strike any part of the head, and pain may be present in one or several spots. It is caused by a mix of signals between our brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. The most common triggers include illness, stress, wrong diet, environment, genetics, hormone changes, even caffeine withdrawal, lack of sleep, and alcohol intake.


When experiencing a headache, most of us would never associate our sensation with jaw trouble but in fact, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder is the second frequent cause for headaches, especially tension ones. 70% of the population has at least one symptom of TMJ disorder.


The TMJ is the hinge connecting a jaw to a skull. It enables our jaw to move therefore allows us to talk, laugh, and chew. Due to its sliding motions, this particular joint is more complicated than others and can cause a variety of symptoms including headaches.


  • tight facial or jaw muscles
  • a jaw or facial pain
  • a “clicking” sounds in the jaw
  • restricted movement of the jaw


TMJ headaches often recur in one or more regions of the head and face or can feel like tension headaches.


Treatment may include the Strain Counterstrain technique, soft tissue mobilization, cervical traction, neck and back stretching, strengthening and mobilization as well as therapy of the spine. Depending on the type of pain, heat/ice packs, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation can also bring tremendous relief. The important role in treating headaches plays education – we teach our patients relaxation techniques to practice at home and the importance of proper diet and water intake as well as keeping proper posture.