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TMJ And Headaches

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Do you sometimes experience a sudden sharp and persistent pain on one side of your head? Or both sides around your temples? This pain is usually triggered by a tight and inflamed neck muscle from TMD effects like jaw grinding, teeth clenching, or stress.

A dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint can be influenced by other medical or health issues that predispose or prolong this condition.

This is one of the most common symptoms of TMD disorder. It can coexist along with the dysfunction and aggravate it. Although these conditions may occur separately in cycles, they are detrimental to your health and should be treated as soon as possible.

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What Is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD, is a dysfunction of the jaw joints and surrounding area that include the face, jaw, and neck. The temporomandibular joint is between the mandible and temporal bone, it connects the lower jaw to the side of the head.

It is responsible for jaw joint and muscle movement, such as chewing, eating, opening, and closing of the mouth. This disorder often occurs at intervals, with differences in the level of severity.

This most likely depends on the individual, source of impact, and duration of the condition. TMD is usually caused by physical trauma or blows to the head, either from an accident, fight, or unfortunate event.

The most common features of TMJ disorders are headache, low back pain, limitations in jaw functions, and discomfort in the face. Pain may be chronic and overwhelming. Symptoms may sometimes be associated with psychological disabilities like depression, anxiety that affect well-being and quality of life.

Causes Of TMJ Disorder

There are several factors that can contribute to the prevalence of this condition. They can predispose or prolong temporomandibular joint disorder and pain. These can include genetics, biological, hormonal, and psychosocial factors.

Hormones

TMD is more common among women than men. This is because of a specific hormone that is responsible for some female sexual functions like menstruation, pregnancy, birth control pills. A spike or change in estrogen levels may aggravate or regulate TMJ inflammation and response.

Trauma

Extreme physical activities and injuries, such as during dental treatment, after prolonged mouth opening, may cause dysfunction. Habits like wide yawning, tongue thrusting, bracing the jaw, fingernail biting, pencil chewing can also trigger a disorder.

Psychosocial Attribute

Individuals with higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and mood are more likely to experience TMD-related pain.

Genetics

Genes may also influence the occurrence of temporomandibular joint disorder. However, they do not cause this dysfunction unless with interactions of external and environmental factors.

Symptoms Of TMJ Disorder

The major signs of TMD are discomfort, along with sounds, and limited range of movement.

Pain

Persisting pain in the temporal area and cheeks is one of the major components you may experience. It is usually intermittent, occurring in cycles or persistent. The severity of pain can be moderate, average, or intense. Yawning, talking, or chewing may aggravate pain.

Headache

Discomfort in the jaw areas or chin can cause headaches. It is mostly worse during certain activities, like when you yawn extremely wide, talk, or chew loudly.

Distress

Pain associated with the temporomandibular joint disorder can be uncomfortable and trigger psychological effects such as anxiety and depression. The discomfort can be so debilitating that it makes it difficult for you to concentrate and affects your overall functionality.

Limited jaw function

Carrying out normal jaw activities can become strenuous. You suddenly find it hard to do simple normal tasks such as yawning, talking well, or eating comfortably without experiencing pain.

Sounds

Clicking, grating, or popping sounds in the affected joints are more likely to occur during the opening and closing of your mouth.

How Can TMJ Cause A Headache?

Headaches are a common syndrome of TMD. It sometimes occurs as a direct effect of temporomandibular joint disorders or comes secondary. The sensation is a dull ache feeling on one or both sides of TMJ, however; it is worse on the side of the head where you feel pain.

It is exacerbated by jaw movement and functions. Headache is sometimes prevalent with jaw and muscle tenderness. It can be relieved with jaw relaxation techniques.

Headaches are mostly around the neck, skull, and neck areas. They occur because of the tight and inflamed muscles, joint and muscular stress, although it can also be because of other conditions. It is recommended to seek treatment as soon as you notice symptoms.

Signs Of A TMJ Headache

There are different headaches with characteristics specifically linked to them. Besides TMJ symptoms, you may experience certain signs, like:

Time of occurrence

TMJ-related headaches are mostly experienced after intense jaw activity such as chewing hard foods, taking for long periods of time, opening your mouth wide. These set off pain in your skull and the affected area. Indulging in other routines that strain your jaw muscles can also trigger headaches.

Bruxism

This includes doing things like clenching your teeth before, during, and after headaches. Doing these with TMD may worsen the disorder. Bruxism can occur any time of the day, either at night or dawn.

Restricted Movement

Besides jaw pain, you may experience clicking or popping because of temporomandibular joint disks slipping in and out of place. This disk interferes with jaw activity and causes restrictions in the jaw area when it is misaligned.

Related: Can Stress Cause TMJ

Other Types Of Headache

Headache is generally classified as pain in any part of your head. There are a lot of types depending on the trigger source, onset, duration, and intensity. Some are more common than others. The 3 categories of headaches are primary and secondary types.

Primary headaches can either be episodic, occurring more often or once in a while, and last for hours.

Chronic types are more persistent, they show at regular intervals and last for as long as a day or more.

The most common types of headaches are:

Tension headache – Characterized by sensitivity and dull tender ache around your scalp, forehead, head, or shoulders.

Cluster headache – This is more severe. It occurs in sequence from a few minutes to an hour or more. You may also feel a sharp, piercing pain.

Migraines – It is usually followed by a deep pulsing and throbbing feeling within your head. Pain is mostly one-sided and can last for days.

Treatment For TMJ Disorder

Treatment varies for each individual, depending on age, duration, and intensity. Here are some treatment processes.

Behavioral therapy

Counseling, biofeedback, education, habit reversal, cognitive-behavioral training, relaxation techniques, and other therapeutic jaw activities are used to provide relaxation and strengthening of the affected muscles. Patients can also learn how to cope, manage, and live better by discarding activities that trigger jaw dysfunction.

Sensory Stimulation

It is used to stimulate your nervous system and activate your pain control system to boost or improve a patient’s pain capacity and promote relief.

Occlusal Appliance Therapy

A commonly used therapy. It stabilizes and induces jaw relaxation. However, treatment is reversible and may give short-term relief or improvement.

Medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and co may temporarily promote improvement for a short while. It is recommended to manage TMJ disorders.

Surgery

This is required in severe cases after a proper and thorough diagnosis has been carried out. There are risks associated with the treatment method and it is best to consult your doctor before going for treatment.

Headache Therapy

These are remedies that may help reduce or manage headaches.

Drugs

Pain relievers like panadol, aspirin, ibuprofen, and lots more sometimes help in cases like a tension headache. However, overuse or misuse of these medications can cause rebounding symptoms that are much more difficult to manage. Aspirin is not recommended for children of 19 years and below. Contact your doctor for prescriptions on chronic recurring cases.

Migraine treatment

This is a more severe type of headache that requires specific medications. Medicines are prescribed depending on the onset and duration of migraines.

Home remedies

Simple things like using an ice pack on the affected side of the headache, staying away from noise or light can make you feel better.

Alternative method

Since stress causes headaches, techniques like biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, and relaxation activities can counteract stress. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also change how you handle challenging situations, they help change your negative response and reactions.

Conclusion

Both TMJ disorders and headaches are detrimental to your health, whether they coexist or occur separately at intervals. These are conditions that can quickly spiral out of control and become debilitating.

Although there are factors that put you at a higher risk of developing either of these, they can be managed by practicing counteracting strategies and treating them immediately after you experience symptoms.

Contact your doctor or health care center if you do not see changes or notice an increase in levels of severity.

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Pristen Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

1. Sage Journals: Temporomandibular disorders: Old ideas and new concepts

2. Healthline: 10 Types of Headaches and How to Treat Them

3. Kuzma Advanced Dentistry: Signs TMJ is causing your headache
4. WebMD: Headache treatment

5. Cleveland Clinic: Headaches
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