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An illustration of TMJ Head ache

TMJ Headache, Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

TMJ headache also known as jaw headache is one of the most common TMJ disorder(TMD) symptoms. In this article, we will be answering questions on this type of headache. Questions like: what is TMJ headache? Where is TMJ headache located? What is the relation between headache and TMJ pain? How does TMJ disorder cause headache? What are the symptoms of TMJ headache? Can jaw pain cause headache? How to get TMJ headache relief?

According to the International Headache Society, there are 273 types of headaches. TMJ headache is just one of them but, it is one of the most common types of headaches. Headaches are categorized as primary or secondary. Secondary headaches are caused by diseases that activate the pain receptors in the head. However, headache caused by TMJ disorder is a secondary type of headache, while migraine and tension type headaches are primary headaches.

What is TMJ Headache?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headache is a head pain caused by tension and pain in the jaw muscles. Pain in the chewing muscles (Jaw Muscles) spread upwards to the head causing headache. Jaw headache is hard to differentiate from tension type headache. TMJ pain presented as head pain can be relieved using TMJ treatment options. Above all, it might not respond to common headache remedies. 

Where is the TMJ Headache Located?

Jaw headache is felt mostly in the temple areas. It might be on one side or both sides. TMJ pain may also be felt in the ears, cheek, jaw, sinuses, neck and shoulders. However, Temporomandibular joint headache usually feels worse on the side of your problematic TMJ.

Headache and TMJ Pain, are They Related?

Pain in one part of the body can spread and felt in a different area. This is known as referred pain. However, referred pain is a complex process where nerves in the central nervous system get hyper exited in response to prolonged TMJ pain stimulation. The nerves associated with headache is the same nerves that supply the TMJ and the jaw muscles. This is why pain on your TMJ or jaw muscles can be felt as pain in the head. Additionally, there is connection between the neck and shoulder nerves and the trigeminal nerve which supply the head and the TMJ. This explains why patients with neck and shoulder pain could feel pain on the TMJ, face or head even these structures have no problems.

What are the Causes of Jaw Pain Headache?

Jaw pain headache is caused by pain in the TMJ or the jaw muscles. TMJ arthritis, myalgia and myofascial pain syndrome are common TMJ disorders that can cause TMJ headache.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Headache?

Temporomandibular headache shares symptoms with other types of headaches mostly tension type headache. Jaw headache feels like tight dull pain mostly on the temple area. It can be in one or both sides. You are more likely to have jaw headache when you wake up with headache in the morning. This is true if you clinch your teeth while asleep. Additionally, jaw headache feels worse with jaw activities such as chewing and talking. However, it gets better with jaw relaxation. On the other hand, migraine headache feels like throbbing or pulsating pain. Patients with jaw headache may also have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness and tightness of the jaw muscles
  • Pain in the jaw and face
  • Clicking jaw joint
  • Cannot open your mouth for long time
  • Ear pain
  • You may have restriction of the jaw movement
  • You may feel changes in your bite
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Restricted neck movement
  • Dizziness 
  • Loss of balance
  • Ear fullness
  • Tinnitus

How to get TMJ Headache Relief?

The treatment of Jaw headache is basically based on treating the TMD. We discussed the TMJ treatment options in a separate post. However, we will summarize the treatment in the lines bellow:

  • Avoidance therapy: avoid chewing gum, chewy food, excessive mouth opening and large bites. Also avoid habits like ice chewing and nail biting
  • Jaw muscles exercises
  • Thermal therapy using heat or cold pads
  • Physical therapy
  • Mouth guards
  • Trigger point injections
  • Over the counter pain medications
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • BOTOX injections for the TMJ and jaw muscles
  • Ultra sound treatment
  • TENS devices
  • Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
  • Acupuncture
  • Bite correction using orthodontics or restorative dentistry
  • Stress reduction
  • Counseling
  • Jaw surgery

At the Museum Dental Center, Dr. Khalifeh will not only treat your TMJ symptoms, he will find and treat the source of your pain. 

Does TMJ Cause Migraine?

Migraine headache is a genetic problem usually inherited from your parents. There are many factors that can bring the migraine attacks. These factors called migraine triggers. While TMJ does not cause migraine, however, TMJ can trigger migraine attacks. Above all, migraine treatment failure may be attributed to untreated TMJ disorder in the same patient. 

What is the Outlook of TMJ Headache?

TMJ disorders are treatable. There are many remedies for jaw headache relief. Your Orofacial pain specialist knows exactly how to treat even some times cure your TMJ disorder and any related symptoms.

The treatments will target the root cause of your TMJ disorder. Above all, treating your TMJ disorder can help relief your headache pain and may prevent future pain attacks. 

For further information, contact Dr. Khalifeh‘s dental office by email or call us at: (323) 933-3855

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