Do you suffer from migraines? How about TMJ jaw pain?
Migraine headaches affect millions of people worldwide. While there are different potential triggers of migraines, one often-overlooked factor is the jaw joint, or TMJ.
Does TMJ cause migraines?
TMJ disorder (TMD) may have a role in triggering migraines for some people. TMD often involves pain in other body areas, along with issues in the central nervous system. Specifically, the way your brain processes pain signals. 
This study describes the above factors, while also mentioning that women are more prone to TMJ pain than men.
This also is linked to pain nerves in the brain – women actually have more of them!
But, this does not imply that TMJ dysfunction is the cause alone. More that they are linked – both are symptoms of an underlying nervous system issue.
Two branches of the same tree you could say.
This also means that for many people, treating the TMJ can help to relieve the migraine headaches, since we may be dealing with similar pain areas in the brain.
Now, what we do know can be caused by TMD is headaches, which are almost always a factor with migraines.
How TMJ causes Headaches
TMJ disorder causes headaches because of damage and inflammation at the jaw joint, leading to activation of pain nerves. This leads to a headache on one or both sides. Neck pain, earache, and a feeling of stuffiness can be present too.
The pain is often made worse by chewing, talking, or yawning.
There are different types of headaches associated with TMD, such as migraine, tension headaches, and myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). Tension headaches are the most common, while MPS affects the muscles around the jaw. Both can cause a throbbing sensation.
There are many causes of temporomandibular joint disorder, including jaw misalignment, teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw clenching, and injury to the jaw muscles or joints.
Some people may also be born with a genetic predisposition to TMJ disorder (TMD).
Read this post about stress-induced TMJ issues to learn more.
Linking TMJ and Migraines
If you have TMJ disorder, you are more likely to also suffer from migraine headaches for other reasons: both conditions share some risk factors, such as genetics, muscle tension, and changes in hormones, for example.
Additionally, even if you don’t have TMJ disorder, your jaw joint can still contribute to migraines.
This is because the muscles and nerves and blood vessels in the jaw are connected to those in the head and neck, which are common sites of migraine headaches.
Here we’ll list nine ways that your TMJ can contribute to migraines.
If you’re struggling with migraines, this list might provide you with some potential connections to ponder.
9 links between the TMJ and migraines
- misaligned teeth
- trigeminal nerve
- tmj trauma
- jaw muscle trigger points
- cervical spine (neck) joint inflammation
- blood vessels around the tmj
- malformed jaw joint or disc
- prior facial surgery
Can tmj cause migraines with aura
Some experts believe that TMJ disorder can cause migraines with aura, but the migraine and TMJ issues are likely occurring together as part of the same brain processing problems. Aura refers to the visual and other neurological symptoms that can occur before or during a migraine headache.
TMD Headache Treatments
Fortunately, there are a few different treatment options available for TMJ-related migraines. These include both medical and surgical options.
Medical treatments include medications such as muscle relaxants, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories. Botox injections are also sometimes used to treat TMJ-related migraines by relaxing the muscles in the jaw.
Surgical options for TMJ-related migraines include arthroscopic surgery, which involves making small incisions in the joint to remove any debris or damaged tissue. In some cases, open surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the joint.
TMD physical therapy treatments
Physical therapy is often recommended as a first-line treatment for TMJ-related migraines. This is because physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the jaw, neck, and shoulders, which can help to relieve pain.
Additionally, physical therapy can help to improve posture and decrease stress, both of which can help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
Chronic TMJ treatments
- With TMJ disorder, a night guard can be used to ease the pressure on your teeth and jaw. The thin plastic of these appliances prevents the effects of bruxism to a degree.
- Chiropractic, acupuncture and stress-reducing techniques all have a role to play in reducing both migraine and TMD symptoms, so be sure to seek out these non-invasive options!
- The good news is that lifestyle changes have a proven track record of helping migraine sufferers, and those with tmj flare-ups.
TMJ disorders can be a significant contributing factor to migraines.
The two are linked in ways that research has yet to illuminate. This should be cause for optimism.
If you’re struggling with migraines, it’s important to talk to your doctor about whether TMJ may be playing a role.
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- Sarlani E, Greenspan JD (2005) Why look in the brain for answers to temporomandibular disorder pain? Cells Tissues Organs