If you have headaches nearly every day, it’s likely you have chronic daily headaches. Chronic daily headaches are defined as headaches that occur on fifteen or more days a month, and last for at least three months before they meet the clinical definition.
While some people have primary chronic daily headaches–those that occur without another cause–many people can trace their headaches back to another condition, which can be treated, providing relief. By treating conditions like sleep apnea and TMJ, you can reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches.
Note that both these conditions can also trigger migraines, so if you have chronic migraines, these might be linked to sleep apnea or TMJ. Treating sleep apnea and TMJ can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, too.
Sleep apnea is when your breathing stops during sleep. It stops long enough that your brain has to wake up to restart breathing. This disrupts your sleep, keeping you from reaching the deeper levels of sleep your brain needs to truly rest. Although you might wake up slightly hundreds of times a night, you might not know it.
In the most common form of sleep apnea, your airway collapses, cutting off your air supply. This is called obstructive sleep apnea.
However, you will wake up in the morning unrested. It might feel as if you haven’t gotten any sleep all night, even if you were in bed for more than eight hours and you don’t remember tossing and turning.
What Sleep Apnea Headaches Are Like
In addition, many people with sleep apnea wake up with headaches every day. A sleep apnea headache usually feels like a pressing pain on both sides of the head. They usually go away within an hour, but they can last up to four hours.
Although sleep apnea can also trigger migraines, sleep apnea headaches are different from migraines. They don’t come with nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, auras, or other symptoms related to migraines.
Why Sleep Apnea Headaches Can Happen Every Day
Sleep apnea headaches can happen every day because every time you sleep, you experience sleep apnea. This means that you can always wake up with headaches related to your nightly oxygen shortage and disrupted sleep.
Treating Sleep Apnea Headaches
Treating sleep apnea means ensuring that your breathing continues uninterrupted all night long. Most of the time, a doctor will prescribe CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for your sleep apnea. CPAP is a pump that pushes air through a tube into a mask. The positive pressure of the air holds the airway open. It is effective but some patients find they are unable to wear the CPAP comfortably.
Oral appliance therapy is a comfortable, convenient alternative to CPAP. Oral appliance therapy is a comfortable alternative to CPAP. It is an oral appliance that you wear when you sleep. It holds your jaw in a healthy position that supports your airway so it won’t collapse. Because oral appliances are easier to use, people use them more regularly than CPAP. Overall, they work just as well as CPAP.
If you get sleep apnea headaches every day, you might prefer a sleep apnea treatment that’s easier to use every day, like oral appliance therapy.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint disorders, though some people call them TMD or even TMJD. In TMJ, one or both joints between your jaw and your skull, called the temporomandibular joints, aren’t working, don’t harmonize with each other or the jaw muscles, or interfere with nerves and other systems in the area.
What TMJ Headaches Are Like
TMJ headaches are usually muscle tension type headaches. Pain can extend from the jaw up to the sides of the head around the temple behind the eyes. You might also feel it at the back of your head or neck. This dull, achy pain typically occurs on both sides of the head, but it might also occur on one side of the head or the other depending on the patient.
However, TMJ can also trigger migraines, and increasing migraine frequency is associated with TMJ.
Why TMJ Headaches Happen Every Day
TMJ headaches can occur most days because you are using your jaw every day. Biting, chewing, talking, swallowing, and more rely on your jaw muscles. When your jaw muscles aren’t working well with each other and can’t find a comfortable position for rest, they will have tension that increases significantly.
Even at night, teeth clenching and grinding can lead to increased tension in your jaw muscles.
Treating TMJ Headaches
The proper TMJ treatment for headaches depends on the type of TMJ you have. For most people, muscle tension is the primary cause of TMJ symptoms. Therefore we need to first relax your muscles. We do this with TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), a kind of electric massage. Many people feel instant relief and can enjoy days free from symptoms with this approach.
However, for long-term relief we determine the optimal position for your jaw, then create an oral appliance that helps you hold it in this position. This helps your jaw muscles relax, leading to less jaw pain and fewer headaches.
Help for Headaches in Fort Atkinson
If you have headaches most days and suspect that either sleep apnea or TMJ may be to blame, we can help. Dr. Jennifer Stafford is trained in the treatment of both sleep apnea and TMJ, and she can help you track down the source of your headache so you can finally get relief. Please call (920) 563-7323 today for an appointment at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, WI.