TMJ Headache: Causes, Symptoms, Tips, and Treatments

Our body is a complex entity where the muscles, joints, heart, and other organs collectively work to help us live and work every day. However, at a certain point, if any of the organs digress from working straight, it ultimately causes a malfunction inside the body leading to several diseases. Similarly, our skull and mouth are connected, coordinating with each other to help us talk, eat, laugh, sing, and smile. But what if one day you begin experiencing pain from head till neck? It sounds familiar, right! It is known as TMJ Headache.

Plenty of people have complained about a feeling of sudden pain from their head to the jaw while they are trying to open their mouth or even chew food sometimes. It happens due to one specific joint connecting the skull to the jaw- TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint. Now, this one joint is utterly complex compared to other joints in a human body, and a sudden shift in movement in our jaw could ultimately cause TMJ disorders. 

What is TMJ Headache?

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TMJ Headache is the consequence emerging from TMJ disorders, and most people do not have enough knowledge about the condition. People would often feel that they are experiencing severe pain in their head while trying to open their mouth, and the jaw feels stuck in the middle. 

The TMJ muscles are spread all across our cheeks, jaw, and head. Thus, whenever there is a misalignment of the jaw or any activity that explicitly causes tension in the jaw, it spreads through these muscles and triggering a sharp TMJ headache. The temporomandibular joint is responsible for helping us chew the food, talk, sing and perform other actions with the help of our mouth. So it is self-evident that any activity that causes the jaws and muscles of the face to hurt would ultimately cause TMJ disorder.

Identifying the TMJ Headache Causes

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As mentioned above in the blog, the temporomandibular joint runs across the face, cheeks, and head, so whenever there is a slight difference in the movement of the jaw, mental stress of any kind, or even hormonal imbalance in an individual, it could cause the TMJ disorder to trigger. According to statistics reported by Healthline,  amongst every ten people, one is diagnosed with TMJ headache. It is a common cause of concern about which half of the population is unaware. 

Experts believe that the pain is not specified in one location; it varies from one individual to another. The condition is determined as an inflammation of the joints or tendons. There are also cases when TMJ disorder is a result of osteoarthritis or osteoporosis in people. However, the terminus point is the head which suffers sharp pain. A study published in 2015 mentioned that the primary consequence of TMJ disorder is TMJ Headaches.

Most of the time, even doctors amiss the condition as a very regular headache and miss diagnose the disease. However, the TMJ headache location could pretty quickly signal the diagnosis. Here are some other TMJ headache causes, which are potential risks at any point in a person’s life.

  • When you use the computer for lengthy durations, it causes stress on your head and neck. Now, it might be due to keeping your head too low while working or keeping it too high. It is one of the reasons people suffer from cervical spondylosis too. 
  • An excessive estrogen level causes TMJ headache too. However, it has other risk factors such as blood clots and chances of stroke.
  • Any dental check-up or surgeries caused you to keep your mouth open for longer, leading to a TMJ headache.
  • The cartilage is a part of the bones that are separated by a disk. This disk helps to absorb any kind of shock and keeps the joints and tendons smooth. If this disk witnesses any damage by a disease like arthritis or any injury in the jaw, it would trigger TMJ disorder. 
  • There is an extensive amount of stress and anxiety, especially during the wake of the pandemic when the work-from-home routine is the new normal. Hence, this could be one cause of TMJ Headache.
  • A deficiency of Vitamin D, especially in middle-aged or older women, could be one amongst many reasons for TMJ Headache.

What are some TMJ Disorder & TMJ Headache Symptoms?

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Amongst a long line of conditions that are the aftermath of extreme stress levels, TMJ headache is one of them. Doctors and several senior physicians have shown their concern over the fact that stress could deteriorate the health and physicality of a person. Headaches are also the result of migraines, but stress, anxiety, and other emotional factors are the most significant reason. 

While discussing the specific TMJ Headache symptoms, we cannot let go of the broader terminology under which all the other joint-related diseases prevail- TMJ disorder. It is also crucial to apprehend that jaw pain isn’t the endgame in this disease; there are so many other symptoms that constantly signal the occurrence of TMJ disorder and the immediate need to cure it. 

  • The most recurring and common symptom is the inability to open the mouth completely. It might also pose a problem for you when you visit your dentist for your regular oral healthcare check-up. 
  • More often feeling of Dizziness.
  • While trying to chew or moving your jaw, there would be clicking and popping sounds.
  • Inability to chew the food properly.
  • The consistent feeling of ringing in the year and earaches. The fingers might feel numb too.
  • The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that along with severe headaches and feeling of muscle tightening around the neck, there is also a consistent pain radiating from the jaw to the neck and back to the head. 
  • The upper and lower part of the teeth would fit in very differently while the mouth is closed. It might make you feel a void inside the mouth. 
  • One would be more prone to have oral hygiene problems.

One of the most vital things to keep in mind is to be aware of the timing when the headache strikes. If one is suffering from TMJ Headache in the middle of the night, they probably grind their teeth (Bruxism). If the pain is during the day, specifically while working on your computer, you need to change your sitting position or the position of your neck while working. 

Some Tips and Treatments for TMJ Headache Relief

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Post analyzing all the TMJ Headache causes and understanding the exact TMJ Headache symptoms, we now know enough about the condition. Nevertheless, we are not experts, so finding out the right cure for this is essential. There are several treatments for TMJ headache relief. Since it is a complex condition and might vary from one person to another, checking in with a professional is the best choice.

Meanwhile, let’s discuss some of the TMJ Headache relief options.

Try Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy often works in most cases associated with joint pain. So when it comes to pain in the jaws resulting in TMJ headache, a physical therapist could assist you. It is advisable not to consult a general physician for this condition since it is a more specific joint disease and would require a specialist who deals in such cases. 

Keep Yourself Away from Stressful Situations

Stress is the enemy of our health, and we are habitual of surviving amidst a consistent stressful environment. The work-life balance during the pandemic led many people to juggle between two worlds that suddenly collided. Hence, COVID was not the only disease in the air; back pain, anxiety, cervical pain, etc., kept recurringly appear.

We are stressed or angry; we feel pressured and clench our jaw; it is a natural human tendency. If you are suffering from a TMJ headache, clenching your jaw could trigger the pain. Try keeping yourself relaxed through various healthy means such as yoga, meditation, listening to some soft melodies, etc. 

Try for Therapeutic Options

Muscle tightness around the neck due to prolonged hours of working in front of your laptop could be one of the TMJ headache causes. So in such a situation, you can look for a professional massage therapy centre specializing in back and neck massage. They would help loosen up the area and relax all the tension accumulated around the neck due to muscle stiffness, causing TMJ headaches.

Also Read: Find All The Reasons Behind Sugar Headache

Look for Making Specific Modifications in Your Lifestyle

We have stuffed our life with junk; one of them is a consistent pattern of eating hard foods such as chewing gum or even fast foods that are hard on the jaws. If you are suffering from TMJ headache, it demands relaxation and proper relief to the jaws. If you keep chewing tough foods, the pain is going nowhere. 

Try eating soft and boiled food for a while that puts your jaw at ease. When you feel comfortable while biting any food, you will know the problem does not exist anymore. 

The Bottom Line: Speaking to an Expert

If exercising your jaw, therapies, and even over-the-counter medications do not seem to work for you, it is time to consult with an expert. The doctor may recommend any specific drug, therapies, or surgical treatment according to your condition. It is never advisable to ignore TMJ headaches; it might turn life-threatening if you deprive yourself of proper precautions and remedies.

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