Frequent Headaches and TMJ Pain

The causes TMJ dysfunction can be multifaceted, but frequent headaches are the most common symptom of TMJ pain.

TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the joint in front of your ear. And because you have two (2) ears, you have two (2) TM joints, one in front of each ear.  They function like no other joint in the body because they are connected and must work together in harmony to prevent some of the following common TMJ dysfunction symptoms of which patients complain during their examinations.

1.  Frequent headaches in the temples, behind the eyes,  in the back of the head and pressure that feels like a ” band around the head”

2.  Migraine Headaches

3.  Popping jaw joints when eating and/or yawning

4.  Stiff neck and shoulders

5.  Tingly fingers

6.  Frequent dizzy spells

7.  Low back pain

8.  Ringing in the ears

The consequences of TMJ pain and dysfunction are being recognized more and more by the prevention-oriented health care providers. TMJ pain and dysfunction is frequently discussed in popular magazines and in health columns of daily newspapers.

A well-informed physician may have suggested that the pain might be related to a “bad bite” and may have suggested that you see your dentist, but very few general dentists are trained to recognize or treat TMJ pain appropriately, usually prescribing medication or a “Night Guard” which will protect the teeth but can actually accelerate the damage to the TM joints.  Only credentialed and experienced TMJ specialists can help you with your TMJ-related problems.

What causes TMJ dysfunction?

We are all exposed to external stresses in our environment and we all respond to these stresses differently.  The typical reaction of some to these stresses is muscle contraction: tight shoulders/ neck and clenched jaws. If the jaws are habitually clenched due to a lot of stress anxiety and/or frustrations, and if the teeth do not support the jaws properly, then the jaw joints become displaced and over closed causing damage to the joints. This may occur with all natural teeth and especially with teeth that are  worn down from all the clenching and grinding.

Usually the disc in the joint is pushed forward, the posterior attachment of the disc becomes stretched and inflamed, and the condyles (those “bumps” just in front of your ear when you open and close) make the displaced disc pop or crunch when the jaw is used. These symptoms are usually ignored early-on because there is no pain but after many years of this, there are usually arthritic changes in the joint, an irreversible degenerative process. This damage to the TMJ’s and the associated muscle spasms, causes pain, not only in the joints themselves, but through muscle spasms in other parts of the body, resulting in many of the other symptoms listed above. The pain syndromes then cause, in addition to the external stress, internal stress, which further saps the body and spirit of energy.

If the suffering patient could permanently relax and not clench his/her jaws, the symptoms related to TMJ dysfunction would diminish but the damage done to the joints would remain.

The slogan: “Lips together, teeth apart, from this habit do not depart“, may help, if consistently practiced. Unfortunately, we must put our teeth together on average 3000 times a day just to swallow, making it difficult to comply.

The real answer however is to establish the position of the lower jaw, where all jaw muscles can contract in balanced harmony without dislocating, overloading and damaging the jaw joints and pressing adversely on nerves and bones of the skull.

Only a credentialed and experienced specialist (American Academy of Craniofacial Pain) can help to diagnose and measure the muscle spasm and joint damage. He can begin treatment of the TMJ disorder by taking a complete health history, oral/skeletal examinations, imaging,  joint vibration analysis, muscle palpation to re-position the lower jaw with a custom-made, precisely fitted prescription Orthotics to allow the damaged joints to heal.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, you likely have TMJ dysfunction, and a consultation with a TMJ specialist is a necessary 1st step on your journey back to health and a life without headaches.


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Posted in: Headaches, TMJ Disorders, TMJ Pain

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