Can TMJ Jaw Problems Cause Headaches?
Jaw Problems and Headaches Are Often Interrelated
Do you ever wonder if tmj jaw problems cause headaches? Do you ever wake up in the morning with a headache? If you yawn or chew, does your jaw click? Do you think your jaw issues and your headaches could be connected to each other?
In this article, I discuss if tmj jaw problems cause headaches –– and how I resolve these types of problems with chiropractic care and cranial therapies.
Table of Contents
Chiropractic, Jaw Problems and Headaches
Teeth grinding or clenching can be the result of other areas of biomechanical imbalance in the body, trauma to the jaw or simple wear and tear. Many people will say that they have TMJ. The truth is everyone has two TMJ because TMJ simply refers to the temporomandibular joint. That is the jaw joints. When your two TMJ do not work well together, you get TMD, Temporomandibular disfunction and that can lead to a multitude of problems, most commonly headaches.
The temporal bone is part of your skull. The mandible is the jaw. Between those two bones is a disc. It’s kind of like the discs between your vertebrae. The difference is the TMJ disc is supposed to move forward and back as you open and close your mouth. It does this though as a result of the interaction of several muscles, ligaments. If there are movement issues on either or both sides, your jaw may swing to one side, pop or make a crunching sound as you open and close. If both sides are stuck you probably are not able to open your mouth all the way or your mouth gets stuck open. These are all clear signs of TMD.
TMJ problems are can be addressed through chiropractic because they involve joints, muscles and nerves. This being said, not all chiropractors work on TMJ issues.
What causes TMJ problems?
It used to be believed that stress was the only cause of TMD. Stress can cause all kinds of problems, from sleeplessness and grinding or clenching your teeth to headaches and migraines. Lifestyle changes are often needed to reduce stress, but stress is not the only way jaw problems cause headaches. Chiropractors, osteopaths and now many dentists recognize the relationship between the jaw and other parts of the body, especially the stability of the lower back. You may or may not have lower back pain, but if there is instability, particularly in the sacroiliac joints, the body has compensation patterns that go all the way up to the jaw. Of course, direct trauma will also cause jaw problems. Fortunately, these issues can usually be addressed with a simple treatment plan.
How Jaw Problems Cause Headaches
There are a great deal of nerves around the jaw joints. When the joints are not moving properly, they become inflamed irritating those nerves. This irritation can spread out to surrounding nerves and cause pain and muscle tension. Also, when the jaw is not moving properly or the teeth are not lining up well we unconsciously try to correct that situation with grinding and clenching, especially in our sleep. This causes tension in the chewing muscles, some that spread out over the side of the head. These muscles can press on nerves and blood vessels causing pain. Tension in the chewing muscles can cause tension in the neck muscles, another factor in headaches.
Other symptoms of TMD
- Difficulty in chewing
- Discomfort and pain in your jaw
- Headaches and migraines
- Jaw locking
- Neck pain
- Noise (clicking) while chewing
- Shoulder pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Among my chiropractic patients, the most symptoms are headaches, teeth grinding or clenching, dizziness and tinnitus, (ringing in the ears).
How Chiropractic Can Help a Jaw Problem
Dentists may recommend a night guard to prevent you from grinding your teeth. However, a night guard often does not stop you from grinding, only from harming your teeth if you continue to do so.
If you are experiencing jaw pain, headaches, migraines or even dizziness or tinnitus from TMJ dysfunction, I can address the cause of those symptoms. I can gently adjust the joints of the skull and jaw and use massage the chewing muscles to reduce physical stress and restore function to the jaw. I also check the overall structure and biomechanical relationships of the body, to address secondary causes.
As you are recovering, I would also recommend:
- Ice packs to decrease inflammation, numb pain and promote healing.
- Soft foods diet to allow your jaw to rest temporarily avoiding hard, crunchy or chewy foods that may be causing jaw pain.
- Jaw exercises to help improve your jaw mobility and alignment.
- Relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation and yoga to reduce stress.
Want to Learn More About Jaw Problems and Headaches?
Now that you know how your jaw problems and your headaches are interconnected and how a chiropractor can treat them, please contact me to set up an initial consultation. I can determine what first caused your jaw problems and headaches, followed by a treatment plan that can relieve both.