Types of Headaches Linked to TMJ

Although it’s possible for many different types of headaches to be linked to TMJ, there are three that are most common. These are:

  • Migraines
  • Tension headaches
  • Referred pain headaches

Sometimes people have multiple headache types associated with their TMJ. 

Migraines and TMJ

man with migraine sitting at laptop

About 40% of people with TMJ also have migraines. However, the link between migraines and TMJ is not well defined. This is in part because both conditions–migraine and TMJ–remain somewhat mysterious. 

Some specific types of migraine have been linked to overactive and stressed jaw muscles. These occur when a branch of the trigeminal nerve gets pressure from an overactive or tense jaw muscle. These can be treated with surgery, botox injections, or TMJ treatments that relax the jaw muscles. 

The trigeminal nerve is commonly looked at as the trigger point of migraines. It’s also the nerve that controls the jaw muscles and receives pain signals back from them. When the trigeminal nerve gets overstimulated by signals to or from the jaw muscles, it can lead to the release of calcitonin gene-related proteins (CGRP), which can trigger migraines as well as other chronic pain conditions. TMJ treatment, by calming jaw muscles and preventing the release of CGRP may help control not just migraines but other chronic pain conditions as well. 

Tension Headaches and TMJ

Tension headaches are related to tense, sore muscles. In TMJ, many people experience pain in jaw muscles, which can extend all the way up to the temples, causing headaches that might feel like they’re behind the eyes. 

Tension headaches might also be caused by the muscles that partner with the jaw muscles. The jaw muscles are the largest muscles in the head. When they are tense, they can pass this tension on to other muscles they work with, leading to tension headaches elsewhere in the head, such as at the back of the skull just over the neck. 

Referred Pain Headaches

Referred pain is when you feel pain, but your brain interprets it as coming from a different source than it actually is. This is a common phenomenon because the body’s pain system isn’t like phone lines with specific dedicated numbers, it’s more like a series of streams that flow together, and when the brain gets pain signals, it has to interpret the stream the signal had flowed from. 

The brain often uses previous experience as a guide for future interpretation. You are more likely to get this type of headache if you had headaches for other reasons before developing TMJ. 

Treating TMJ Can Help with Headaches in Fort Atkinson

TMJ treatment can help reduce or even eliminate your headaches. Because it’s drug-free, it won’t interfere with other headache treatments you might be taking–it can be a supplemental treatment to help you improve your results. 

People should consider getting tested for TMJ if they have other symptoms of the condition or if their current headache treatment isn’t as effective as they would like. 

To learn how TMJ treatment might help you with your headaches, please call (920) 563-7323 today for an appointment with Dr. Stafford at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson.