Headaches can be caused for several reasons like taking excessive medication, exposure to stressful conditions, sinus and even catching a cold. However, many people are not aware that the joint in their jaw can be a cause of headaches as well.
The hinge-like joint in the jaw allows a number of functions like chewing food, talking, closing the mouth etc. This joint which is known as TMJ, a short form for temporomandibular joint, can cause headaches because the muscles connect right up to the head, including the cheeks.
How To Know If TMJ Is The Cause Of Your Headache
If you are having trouble with moving your jaw and this occurs simultaneously with a headache, you might be suffering from a TMJ-related problem. However, it is best to go to a headache expert to find out the root cause of the pain. An expert will be able to diagnose your condition, and he will most likely introduce you to a headache chart that helps identify the cause of the ache based on the position of the pain.
What Are The Features Of TMJ Headaches
Tight Jaw Muscles Are Commonly Associated With TMJ Headaches
If the underlying cause for your headache is indeed TMJ, then a host of other symptoms will accompany the pain. The most obvious sign is a tightening of the jaw muscles, and this is accompanied by pain in the face. This is because the muscles that are attached to the joint in the jaw are connected to the cheek as well, so any irregularity in the main bone(hinge) can cause radiating pain in the cheek region.
Apart from this, changes in the bite-size (the way in which the upper and lower pair of your teeth meet each other) and restricted movement of the lower jaw are also common.
Hypermobility Is A Common Underlying Cause
Hypermobility of the jaw is a condition where the jaw glides way more than what can be considered normal. The most common symptom associated with excessive gliding is a cracking or popping sound that is made every time you move your jaw. So if you hear popping and cracking sounds from your jawbone and at the same time you have a headache, TMJ might be the culprit.
Osteoarthritis Is A Another Major Underlying Cause
Osteoarthritis is caused by the degeneration of bones, and it mostly impacts people who are above the age of forty five. So if you suffer from joint pain all over your body, and this occurs along with pain in the head, you must get your jaw bone checked.
Osteoporosis Can Be An Underlying Cause
Osteoporosis usually affects women who are above thirty five or forty years of age. In this condition, the bone becomes weak and porous. So if your bones are becoming weaker, chances are that your jaw bones are also losing strength, and this can be an underlying factor for TMJ-based problems.
What Are The Steps You Should Take If You Have A TMJ Headache
Find Out The Actual Cause OF The Headache
The first step to treating a disease is to find out the underlying problem. You can visit a headache expert to find out if you indeed have a problem with your jawbone.
Changing The Way You Use Your Mouth
One of the easiest and most non-invasive treatments is to change the way in which you use your mouth. You must drop eating hard food that requires a lot of grinding. So nuts and things like corn should be dropped from the regular menu.
Also, try not to clench your jaw. Many people do this unintentionally, especially when they are stressed or excited, but if you have a problem with your TMJ, you have to consciously avoid such movements.
Try not to open your mouth widely when you are yawing. Yawing is an involuntary action, and you do not have much control over it. However, if you are feeling sleepy, you can water your face so that the yawing stops.
Use Pain Relieving Medicines
Pain that emanates from the bone can be quite excruciating, and most doctors prescribe a pain reliever so that you are able to withstand the pain. However, these medicines are only a temporary solution. You will eventually have to make lifestyle changes or undertake surgical procedures if you want relief in the long term.
Also, painkillers cannot be taken for a long time because they are not good for the heart, and it is better to start fighting the underlying cause as soon as possible.
Resorting To Surgical Procedures
Resorting to surgical procedures should be the last option because they are invasive and quite expensive. However, not all persons can get the surgery done, and the doctor will only work on an ideal candidate. A good candidate for surgery is a person whose problems can be visualized in scans such as MRIs and X-rays. Moreover, if a person feels persistent pain and tenderness or if the symptoms keep getting worse, then surgery might be the only option.
Some surgical procedures flush in a fluid to treat inflammation. Such procedures are the least invasive. Other techniques are more invasive and use joint restructuring, bone removal etc.
The recovery after the surgery depends on the kind of procedure followed, but in most cases, the patient can go home after two or three days. However, you might have to visit your doctor for follow-up visits for the next few months till you get used to your reshaped jaw.
TMJ-related pain is quite common, and about one in ten people, that is 10% of the population, suffers from such pain and discomfort. Most people suffer for a long while before they receive any treatment because they do not associate the jaw bone with a headache. But if your jaw is making a cracking or popping sound and if you are having trouble with opening or closing a mouth, you should consider TMJ.