Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headaches are categorized as secondary headaches caused by myofascial pain dysfunction, a disorder in the temporomandibular joint. TMJ headaches are commonly misdiagnosed, and many patients go through various treatment paths, getting little or no relief from the pain. Often, people blame their headaches on migraines or sinus issues but are surprised to learn after seeing a doctor that their headaches are actually caused by a TMJ disorder. The reason for the misdiagnosis is that the main symptoms of TMJ headaches are similar to that of other types of headaches and people seldom associate dental problems with headaches and facial pain.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Headaches
While temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headaches are not the only symptoms of myofascial pain dysfunction, it is the most prominent, and causes the most discomfort. TMJ headaches are characterized by a dull, aching pain located in the area around and inside the ear. Often, the pain radiates toward the scalp and temples, down to the neck area, and at the back of the head. The pain can be aggravated by performing certain activities such as talking excessively, yawning, and chewing. Other symptoms that also occur alongside the headache can make it easier to distinguish TMJ headaches from other types of headaches. These include clicking or popping sounds coming from the joints in the jaw and having a difficult time opening one’s mouth. It is also possible to experience some dizzy spells and hearing problems as well. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a headache specialist immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment of headaches caused by myofascial pain dysfunction and other TMJ disorders.
Causes of TMJ Headaches
TMJ headaches can be classified as tension-type headaches and can be caused by a number of factors. One of the main factors that can cause headaches is constant muscle contraction which creates tension and reduces blood flow to the jaw area. This sends a signal to the body to send more blood to that area and as a result, vascular headaches occur due to the increased blood pressure to that part of the head. Jaw clenching and teeth grinding can also cause pain in the muscles in the head surrounding the jaw area causing a headache. Further studies also show that psychological stress can cause muscle spasms that can trigger TMJ headaches.
Treating Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Headaches
Treatment for TMJ headaches is different from the treatments doctors prescribe for other types of headaches. This is why people who have been misdiagnosed with migraines or sinus headaches don’t get real relief for their headaches and the TMJ condition in general. The headache symptoms of TMJ disorders can be treated using common over-the-counter analgesics and NSAIDs. Joint and muscle injections can also be administered to ease the tension in the jaw area. Ultimately, the best way to treat TM-related headaches is to treat the underlying cause of the headaches. This would require the services of a dentist trained in neuromuscular dentistry. This procedure aligns the temporomandibular joint to ease the tension felt in the jaw area and alleviate painful symptoms such as TMJ headaches.
TMJ conditions are very much treatable and the symptoms associated with these disorders can be avoided with proper treatment. If you suspect that you’re experiencing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headaches, consult a headache specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.