Headaches and TMJ Problems

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Headaches Basics

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.

What causes headaches?

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.

TMJ and headaches

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

What is TMJ

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 it’s sliding motions, this particular joint is more complicated than others and can cause a variety of symptoms including headaches.

What are the symptoms of a TMJ headache?

  • tight facial or jaw muscles
  • 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.

Treating headaches at PDR

With over twenty years of experience our therapists go above and beyond market standards in treating different types of headaches. The challenge lies in determining the cause and type of pain, and in preparing a pertinent treatment plan that will reduce both its frequency and intensity.

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

Each patient is treated differently, as each headache may be caused by something unique to each individual.