TMJ Headache – Location, Causes, and Treatment

TMJ Headache is a complication of temporomandibular joint disorder. Every 1 in 10 people with temporomandibular joint disorder report with a Headache.

Location of pain

Since the headache is related to the temporomandibular joint so it is mostly felt on one side where the TMJ is not normal. However, in some cases, the pain is present on both sides of the head.

TMJ Headache

Duration of pain

TMJ Headache goes away itself if proper rest is given to the jaw. The headache only lasts as long as the temporomandibular joint syndrome persists.

Symptoms

  • Dull, tightening pain in half of the head.
  • TMJ jaw pain.
  • Lockjaw symptoms.
  • Clicking jaw.
  • Cheek pain and jaw tenderness.
  • Stiffness and soreness of jaw muscles.
  • Difficulty in opening and closing mouth.
  • Earache and tinnitus.

Causes

There are no specific causes for Headache but some common assumptions are as follows:

  • Constant grinding of teeth may lead to a headache.
  • The facial muscles or jaw muscles may cause a headache as they become tired out of supporting and stabilizing the jaw in its abnormal position.
  • The constant strain on muscles in the face may lead to a Headache.

Underlying causes:

Most of the people with TMJ Headache keep on taking pain killers to relieve the pain. But the underlying condition stays untreated and thus headaches reoccur. Causes of painful Tmj are:

  • TMJ can be painful due to any trauma that may have damaged the joint.
  • Arthritis damages the cartilage in the joint causing inflammation and thus pain with movement.
  • The disc in the joint may dislocate and cause pain.
  • Certain connective tissue diseases might also affect the TMJ.

Risk factors

  • People with arthritis may it be, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, are more likely to develop TMJ disorder at some point in life.
  • Any trauma or injury might cause dislocation at the joint.
  • People who have a habit of clenching or grinding their teeth might also develop a TMJ Headache.

When to consult a doctor

If the pain in your jaw or head persists, and you have other symptoms associated with TMJ such as lockjaw or tenderness, you must consult your doctor to help with the underlying condition.

Treatment

TMJ Headache is only relieved permanently if you treat the underlying condition, that is TMJ disorder, some of the treatments are:

Medicines:

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): help reduce the inflammation.
Muscle relaxants can also be given for a few days to reduce muscle spasms.

Complementary approach:

Most of the times TMJ disorder can be relieved using complementary methods such as:

  • Icing the jaw.
  • Jaw exercises to relax the muscles and relieve the TMJ Headache
  • Oral splints or mouth guards are sometimes also beneficial.
  • Jaw massage can also help regulate the blood flow to the muscles and reduce the tightness.

Surgical or other procedures:

  • Botulinum toxin and steroid injections are also helpful in relieving pain in the TMJ.
  • If any other treatment fails, your surgeon might perform an open joint surgery (arthrotomy) to repair your joint and in severe cases, he might replace it. This procedure is riskier.

Lifestyle modifications:

  • Avoid hard foods that need more chewing.
  • Avoid vigorous jaw movements like wide yawning.
  • Breakdown the habit of teeth clenching or grinding.

FAQ

What does a TMJ Headache feel like?

Pain of TMJ Headache is dull and tightening in character. The pain may persist for as long as the TMJ disorder persists.

How to relieve TMJ Headache?

Most of the times TMJ disorder can be relieved using complementary methods such as:
Icing the jaw.
Jaw exercises to relax the muscles.
Jaw massage can also help regulate the blood flow to the muscles and reduce the tightness.

Why does TMJ Headache worsens after eating?

TMJ Headache is associated with Tmj disorder. Any sort of movement at the joint worsens the pain.

What are the signs that my headache is associated with TMJ disorder?

If your headache is accompanied by these symptoms, then it is most likely associated with a TMJ disorder:
Lockjaw symptoms.
Clicking jaw.
Cheek pain and jaw tenderness.
Stiffness and soreness of jaw muscles.
Difficulty in opening and closing mouth