Does TMJ Cause Headaches? What You Need to Know
There’s arguably nothing worse than a throbbing headache day after day. If you experience this often, you already know just how difficult it is to make these headaches go away. And when symptomatic treatment methods like painkillers fail you, you might end up seeking the root of your problem.
If you’ve never before stumbled upon TMJ, read on to learn how it might be connected to your situation. Does TMJ cause headaches, and what is TMJ, anyway? If you think you have it, stick around to see how you can best address your problem.
What Is TMJ?
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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to your jaw joints. They’re located on the sides of your face, right next to your ears. The purpose of these joints is to connect the only moveable part (your jawbone) to your skull. If it weren’t for TMJ’s, you wouldn’t be able to chew, laugh, or speak.
Another abbreviation you should know about is TMD. You might have guessed it — it stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. So, TMD refers to a condition that affects your jaw joints and the surrounding muscles and ligaments. It’s usually the result of muscle and ligament irritation or even inflammation.
Depending on what causes it, your symptoms might be mild or severe. But you should know that TMD can also be chronic. Some estimates say that around 10-15% of Americans suffer from this condition.
Does TMJ Cause Headaches?
Now should be a good time to mention that TMJ and TMD both get used to denote temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Apart from the obvious discomfort in your jaw, this disorder can cause many mutually related symptoms. For some of them, you might not even realize they can be traced back to TMJ. Among other things, these include:
• neck pain
• shoulder pain
• ear ringing
• swollen cheeks
• weird sounds coming from your jaw joints
• and yes — headaches
TMJ Headache Symptoms
Do you think you’ve found the cause of your problems? You probably still aren’t sure whether TMJ is your diagnosis. So, how should you know if you’re to blame your chronic headaches on this condition? If you’ve been paying attention to the TMJ symptoms, it shouldn’t be difficult.
That’s because you’ll be able to relate your headache to some other symptoms you might have missed until now. But before you learn what you should pay attention to, let’s see what TMJ headaches are like.
More often than not, they feel like tension headaches. Have you ever woken up with a headache after having slept in a strange position? If so, you know what we mean — such pain feels like it’s coming from your neck and shoulders.
Coming back to TMJ headaches, you can diagnose them the same way. If you believe your pain results from tension inside your jaw, you’ve probably found the culprit. Also, these headaches often affect different head and face regions. So, even if you can’t localize your pain, it might still stem from TMJ.
In such a situation, it might be best to look for other symptoms. As you already know, a TMJ headache will often come together with jaw pain or discomfort in facial muscles. You might also hear clicking or grinding sounds coming from your jaw joints. And last but not least, your jaw movements might feel restricted.
How to Get Rid of TMJ Headaches
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You’ve probably already tried taking over-the-counter medications to soothe your constant headaches. Unfortunately, this hasn’t given you the desired results because you haven’t addressed the root of your pain.
Now that you know you have TMJ, you can try dealing with the cause first. After a while, you might even end up getting rid of your headaches altogether.
First, you can try to change your habits and adapt your lifestyle to your condition. Start by avoiding hard food, gums, or anything that requires a lot of chewing. You might also need to be careful not to open your mouth too wide. Otherwise, you’ll risk irritating your jaw joints even more.
If your headaches still seem unbearable, you can temporarily turn to painkillers. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory medications might be able to soothe your pain. If not, you’ll have to visit a doctor to get a full treatment plan. They might prescribe you something more potent, or try to treat the cause itself.
In case that doesn’t help, another solution might be stabilization splints. Their purpose is to stabilize your bite and improve your overall jaw function. After a while, your pain might also completely go away. Your dentist can even suggest surgical treatment options that would permanently change your bite and relieve you of your pain.