TMJ Headache, or as it is known – a Jaw Headache, is a secondary headache disorder. In other words, a jaw (TMJ) problem causes your headache.
What Does a TMJ Headache Feel Like?
TMJ Headaches is a common TMJ disorder. Sometimes TMJ headaches can be a direct result of TMJ dysfunction.
The typical TMJ headache is a tight, dull aching headache over the temple region. It is most commonly on one side, which correlates to your jaw joint issue. But, it can also be bilateral.
TMJ headache aggravates with jaw tension, clenching, stress or jaw movement. Typically, it relaxes your jaw. It also is usually associated with tenderness of the jaw and nearby muscles.
What Causes TMJ Headaches?
TMJ dysfunction may increase muscle tension in the jaw and masticatory muscles. e.g. temporalis, pterygoids. TMJ headaches are associate with jaw disorders. Abnormal jaw muscle tension can create TMJ disorders such as myotonic or articular disc derangements.
How is TMJ Headache Diagnosed?
Your TMJ physiotherapist will assess your jaw function and determine whether you are likely to be experiencing a TMJ headache. Correctly identifying the cause will lead to better treatment.
What About X-rays, CT scans and MRI?
OPG X-rays, CT scans and MRI’s are not diagnostic of a TMJ headache. However, they can identify oral and bite conditions, which may be predisposing you to TMJ headache.
How Do You Fix TMJ Headaches?
A TMJ physiotherapist has a particular interest in craniomandibular physiotherapy. They are your practitioner of choice for TMJ headaches.
The best fix for your TMJ headache is to normalise your TMJ function. Treatment normalises TMJ joint motion, muscle tensions, muscle timing and coordination. Your jaw physio treatment may perform jaw muscle massage, relaxation techniques, joint mobilisation, TMJ movement correction exercises, dry needling or other tools suited to your condition.
For more specific advice, please consult your TMJ physiotherapist.
Common Causes of Headache & Migraine
Specific Migraine - Headache Types
- Neck Pain
- Bulging Disc
- Wry Neck
- Text Neck
- Pinched Nerve
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Neck Sprain
- What Causes Cervicogenic Headache?
- How Do You Get Rid Of A Neck Headache?
- When Should You Be Concerned About A Headache?
What's Causes Cervicogenic Headache?
Your neck headache originates from a variety of musculoskeletal and neurovascular structures. These structures include the upper three neck joints, C2/3 disc, spinal cord coverings, and neck muscles. Dysfunction in these areas can trigger pain signals that travel to your trigeminocervical nucleus (TCN) in your brainstem. This information is then transmitted into your brain and interpreted as a headache (Bogduk 2003).
Upper Neck Joints
The most likely source of your neck headache is a dysfunction of your upper neck joints. Your neck muscles or nerves become involved from pain signals that travel to your trigeminal nucleus in your brainstem, where you interpret the pain signals as a neck headache.
The most common cause of a neck headache is the dysfunction of your upper three neck joints. The most common neck joints involved are your:
- atlantooccipital joint (O-C1),
- Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2), and
- C2/3 cervical spine joints.
In simple terms, your neck joints can cause a neck headache or pain if they are either too stiff or move too much (e.g. wobbly and unsupported by weak muscles) or locked in an abnormal joint position, e.g. a locked facet joint or poor neck posture. Once your neck joint becomes stressed and painful, the pain signals refer to the trigeminocervical nucleus in your brainstem. You start to feel a neck headache or, in some cases, face pain!
Your neck and headache physiotherapist can assess and correct neck joint dysfunctions that result in a neck headache. Their professional diagnosis and treatment are essential for neck headache sufferers.
Your neck and shoulder blade muscles that originate from your neck will cause pain if they are overworking, knotted or in spasm. Some of your neck muscles overwork when protecting injured neck joints. Other neck muscles become weak with disuse—this further demands your overworking muscles resulting in muscle fatigue-related symptoms. Your deep neck flexors are frequently weak or lack endurance. Your neck muscles work best when they have healthy resting tension, length, strength, power and endurance.
Your skilled physiotherapist assesses and helps you correct any muscle imbalances that result in a neck headache.
Cervical and Occipital Nerves
Nerves in your upper neck may become pinched by extra bony growths, e.g. arthritis, disc bulges or swelling. The results can result in nerve irritation or a reduction in the neural motion known as neuromechanosensitivity or abnormal neurodynamics. Irritation of your upper neck structures refer to pain messages along the nerves and cause your headache. In simple terms, your neck is the "switch", nerves are the "power cords", and your headache is where the "light" comes on.
Your headache physiotherapist can assess your neuromechanosensitivity.
How Do You Get Rid Of A Neck Headache?
Quality neck physiotherapy can have a speedy and effective result for relieving your neck headache—the key to better treatment response in confirming your diagnosis. After your assessment, your physiotherapist will start you with treatment techniques that address your problems.
Your neck headache treatment may include all or some of the following techniques:
- Stiff neck joints may need to be loosened or unlocked via joint mobilisation (gentle gliding techniques), joint traction or, in specific cases, a gentle and localised joint manipulation technique.
- Hypermobile (or dynamically unstable) joints may require specific deep neck muscle strengthening exercises to stabilise, control and limit the joint movement available.
- Tight or overactive muscles may require muscle stretching, neck massage, acupuncture, dry needling, trigger point release or other relaxation techniques.
- Weak muscles may require specific strengthening exercises. This weakness may include your postural shoulder blade and neck muscles.
- Nerve dysfunction identified by your physiotherapist will depend upon your specific examination findings. Neurosensitivity is a common finding that needs addressing with attentive, professional care.
- Posture correction via specific posture exercises, posture awareness techniques, posture taping, or a brace.
- Provide helpful advice on preventing neck dysfunction in the future, e.g. workstation setup, ergonomics, awkward neck positions and postures to avoid.
Who Treats Cervicogenic Headaches?
In addition to relieving your neck headaches, your physiotherapist aims to address why you are experiencing neck headaches. After all, helping you to avoid future neck headaches is a crucial component of your rehabilitation. Chronic headache sufferers typically resolve their neck headaches within days or weeks.
Relief of your neck headache is quite often immediate! If a neck headache solely causes your trouble, it is common to experience instant relief as you walk out of the clinic.
Depending on the severity and the specific underlying causes of your neck headaches, most sufferers will experience a reduced headache after your initial consultation.
For more information, please consult your neck headache physiotherapist.