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Can TMJ dysfunction cause headaches?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a condition that affects the jaw joint. It can lead to a range of painful symptoms, including headaches. It affects over 10 million Americans. Yes, TMJ disorder can cause headaches. Headaches are a symptom for up to 77% of people with a TMJ disorder. The pain from TMJ dysfunction can radiate to different areas of the head. This can lead to headaches. These headaches are classified as similar to tension headaches, and they can be uncomfortable. The jaw’s proximity to the skull and complex network of muscles and nerves in the head and neck make it possible for TMJ pain to radiate through the head and result in headaches.

Common symptoms of TMJ 

In addition to headaches, TMJ can cause various symptoms and pains including:

  • Jaw pain — Jaw pain is one of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder in addition to headaches. It can be a dull or sharp pain.
  • Facial pain — TMJ can also cause facial pain, especially in the cheeks and jawline.
  • Pain while chewing — Eating can be extremely painful and challenging
  • Clicking or popping noises — Some people with TMJ experience a clicking, popping or grating noise when they open or close their mouths.
  • Limited jaw movement — TMJ can cause you to experience difficulty in opening your mouth fully.
  • Ear pain and fullness — TMJ pain can sometimes mimic ear pain or ear infections. 

How can physical therapy help with TMJ disorder-induced headaches? 

Physical therapy can be a beneficial approach for helping to manage a TMJ disorder and the headaches it can cause. A physical therapist with expertise in treating TMJ-related issues can provide you with education on your condition and how certain behaviors or habits you have may be exacerbating your condition, as well as develop a comprehensive treatment plan intended to alleviate pain you are experiencing and improve your jaw function. The first step to creating a customized treatment plan is a thorough evaluation of the extent of your TMJ dysfunction. This can include identifying secondary issues related to your TMJ disorder and assessing your pain level. Your plan may include treatments such as:

  • Jaw exercises — Your physical therapist may prescribe specific exercises that are intended to help improve your jaw mobility, strength and coordination. These exercises can help reduce pain you are experiencing and restore more normal jaw function.
  • Joint mobilization — Joint mobilization is a form of manual therapy used to help manipulate the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. This can help improve joint mobility and reduce muscle tension, leading to pain reduction. 
  • Posture training — Believe it or not, poor posture can contribute to TMJ disorder problems. Physical therapy can help you learn the importance of good posture and ergonomics to help reduce the strain on your jaw. 
  • Orthotic devices — Customized oral orthotic devices like splints or mouthguards may be recommended. They can help with aligning your jaw correctly and help reduce clenching or grinding your teeth. 
  • Soft tissue mobilization — Soft tissue mobilization is a form of manual therapy that is used to help alleviate muscle tension and improve circulation in the jaw and neck muscles. This can also help reduce the intensity of headaches.
  • Education — Your physical therapist can educate you on your condition, the causes behind it, and how specific behaviors or habits you have may be exacerbating your symptoms, including headaches. These habits can include nail biting or excessive gum chewing. 

Physical therapy’s effectiveness can depend on your specific symptoms and commitment to following your recommended treatment plan. Physical therapy can be used in conjunction with other treatment plans that can include medication or dental interventions. TMJ disorder can cause headaches and other painful symptoms. Physical therapy can provide a noninvasive treatment approach that is intended to help alleviate or reduce symptoms like headaches.

Back in Motion can help you find pain relief from your TMJ disorder-induced headaches 

Back in Motion can help you restore your jaw function and alleviate discomfort due to TMJ disorder and TMJ disorder-induced headaches. Our physical therapists can guide you toward pain relief and an improved quality of life. We will design a customized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs and concerns. Together, we can work to get rid of persistent TMJ headaches. 

Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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