Do you keep getting headaches way too often? Are you unable to figure out the cause of your migraines? The pain you feel at the side or top of your head may very well be linked with the bottom region of your skull!
This is because of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connecting your skull to your jaw. The TMJ assists you as you chew, talk, or yawn, but the muscles supporting the joint can also be a source of pain and recurring headaches. These muscles tighten when you clench or grind your teeth, generating pain which is then transferred to other places in your skull. This can result in contributing to either headaches or migraines.
What Are The Symptoms Of A TMJ Headache?
So, how can you tell if your headache is linked with TMJ? While headaches can be a sign of various ailments and underlying health concerns, TMJ headaches are typically characterized by a number of specific symptoms. These include:
- Facial pain or jaw pain
- Clicking, grating, or popping sound in the jaw
- Tight and clenched facial or jaw muscles
- Limited movement of the jaw
- Difficulty in chewing and biting
- Changes in the way you chew or bite (changes in the way teeth in your upper and lower jaw fit together)
How Can TMJ Headaches Be Treated?
In order to treat TMJ headaches, it’s important that you target the temporomandibular joint disorder itself. Since temporomandibular joint disorders often have fleeting and self-limiting symptoms, it’s imperative that they’re identified early so that other related conditions such as TMJ headaches can be prevented or treated in a timely manner.
Ideal TMJ treatments attempt to alleviate/reduce pain, eliminate poor oral-motor habits, while also helping restore normal function. By addressing the disorder through physical therapy, treatments can be customized to alleviate recurring headaches accompanying jaw pain and discomfort.
Through specialized physical therapy, TMJ headaches can be treated and prevented. Physical rehabilitation of the joint assists in restoring joint mobility, reducing joint inflammation, and eliminating muscle pain. Stretching, exercises, manual therapy treatment, habit elimination, and self-massage techniques can also contribute to masticatory muscle relaxation and help eliminate excessive grinding and clenching of teeth.
In addition to physical therapy techniques, certain lifestyle changes can also help treat TMJ headaches. Incorporating small changes in your routine can prevent the onset of these headaches. These include:
- Avoiding eating hard or chewy food
- Consciously unclenching your jaw when you’re feeling stressed
- Eliminating stressful factors to prevent consequential behaviors like jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- Icing your jaw if you experience pain
- Practicing jaw exercises to allow the muscles to stay relaxed yet active
Dr. Michelle Finnegan at ProMove PT Pain Specialists is a board certified Certified Cervical & Temporomandibular Therapist (CCTT). Having received her training in TMD treatment from the University of St. Augustine under the supervision of Dr. Mariano Rocabado, she is among the few physical therapists in the US with advanced training in the head and neck region. Over the years, she has helped many patients with their TMD related problems, including TMJ headache treatments.
Book an appointment with her now for headache treatment in Bethesda!