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Chronic headaches have a variety of causes, including TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorders. This joint is the part of your lower jaw (mandible) that connects it to your skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. It is made of muscles, blood vessels, nerves and bones in the head.

This highly active joint is what helps you speak, laugh, yawn and chew. It moves up and down and side to side, making it the most mobile, complicated joint in your body. So when the TMJs have problems, you can end up with headaches and other uncomfortable symptoms, affecting your quality of life. But it’s often hard to tell the exact cause of a TMJ headache.

What’s Causing Your Headache?

The TMJ muscles that line your jaw and cheeks can cause painful headaches from constant tensing and radiating to other nearby muscles that run beside your cheeks and top of your head. Sometimes people think their TMJ headaches are tension headaches, but TMJ headaches won’t improve when treated with tension headache methods.

TMJ headaches usually coincide with other symptoms like jaw or facial pain, tight muscles in the jaw and face, not being able to move the jaw, and even how your teeth fit together when you close your mouth or bite your food. When bruxing (grinding and clenching your teeth and jaw), you might experience dull pain or a sharp, throbbing one.

Some folks who have TMJ headaches tend to have poor posture, and this forward head position unduly strains their neck muscles and vertebrae. If the jaw muscles cramp, you can also get a headache from that. Another cause of TMJ headaches is malocclusion or misalignment of your bite, which strains the jaw, giving you a headache and perpetuating the misalignment.

Common Symptoms Accompanying TMJ Headaches

  • Clenching and grinding your teeth
  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Experiencing laryngitis
  • Locking up of your jaw, either open or shut
  • Your bite is unstable
  • Feeling sore or loose molars
  • Your throat hurts, but there’s no infection
  • Eye pain and bloodshot and light-sensitive eyes
  • Experiencing jaw or tongue movements you can’t control
  • Finding yourself with neck and shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Having numbness or pain in your arm and fingers
  • Diminishing hearing or buzzing, hissing or ringing in your ear(s)
  • Getting vertigo or dizziness
  • Hearing clicking or popping in your jaw joints
  • Having pain in your cheek muscles, forehead or temple
  • Experiencing shooting pain that runs up the back of your head
  • Hurting scalp hurts when touched
  • Your sinuses hurt

Home Remedies for TMJ Headaches

To minimize your TMJ headaches, stick to soft foods, and avoid chewing hard or tough foods that strain the jaw muscles. You can also practice stress-relieving techniques to help keep you from chronic jaw clenching and don’t open your jaw wide (yawning) or constantly chew gum. You can try taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen for a short time. Applying either a warm compress or a cold compress outside the painful area can sometimes help, as can gently exercising your jaws to help the muscles relax.

Professional TMJ Treatments

A doctor may prescribe stronger medications if the solutions above aren’t working. Injections like Botulinum toxin, BOTOX┬«, is a neurotoxic protein that can help, as can a steroid injection. Wearing a bite guard to stabilize the jaw (stabilization splint) is a common TMJ solution that also protects your teeth if you tend to brux. Orthodontic treatment to change your bite can relieve TMJ, and in some cases, speaking to a pain management doctor can offer relief.

If you are consistently dealing with headaches accompanied by any of the extensive symptoms listed above, it might be time to seek help from our TMJ doctor. Call us today to learn more or to schedule a consultation. There is help for your headaches!