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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

Could your headaches be jaw related?

Over the past several months, I've had many patients come in to see me who report headaches and migraines as one of their biggest complaints that they have sought out massage therapy. Many people have a range of symptoms from chronic daily headache, to headaches or migraines first thing in the morning, or waking up in the night with headaches. Some people have them a few times a week, or less, depending on the severity but, many of them report clicking, popping, or even partners report grinding or clenching during the night. Many patients also have shoulder tension, neck pain, and could even have some numbness or tingling in fingers.

One common cause of many headaches and migraines is improper jaw movements. Clenching, grinding, popping or clicking are all signs of jaw misalignment and improper movement.

Proper alignment and movement of the TMJ is usually smooth and symmetrical movement. Dysfunction usually means the disc is not moving smoothly. Clicking and popping are usually the disc getting stuck towards the front of the joint and popping back when the jaw is opening far enough. This can cause pain or discomfort. More serious would be if the disc doesn't return to its position and the jaw closes without the disc, which can create a locking. When grinding or clenching happens, the muscles that assist in chewing are overworked and tired, causing tension, trigger points, and pain.

TMJ muscles are shown, at left, as Masseter, and Temporalis, as well as medial and lateral pterygoid (pronounced tera-goid). All of which are prone to things like trigger points when there is dysfunction in the jaw. Very generally, trigger points are tight areas within muscles that refer pain elsewhere. They can often mimic the feelings of headaches and even migraines. This image shows the inter-connectedness of the TMJ with surrounding muscles like the neck, including top of shoulders, see Trapezius muscle (bottom left). While the causes for such misalignment could be many, minimizing the pain felt could be relatively easy. Many massage therapists specialize in treatment of TMJ dysfunction, and most learn the basics while in school. If you think you may have TMJ dysfunction, or have been diagnose with TMJ dysfunction, contact your local massage therapist to see if they can assist with minimizing your pain and usually the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches will also decrease as well. Many dentists will also provide a mouth guard which can help with the clenching and grinding. Could your headaches or migraines be caused by TMJ Dysfunction? Book an appointment for an assessment, and treatment and see if they're connected.


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