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Unusual headaches may be from TMJ

Posted Aug 04 2010 5:42am

Sometimes headache won’t respond to typical treatments and looking at the TMJ can be helpful.  There are many causes of headaches which we have talked about in previous blogs. Sometimes you can treat your headache with all the typical methods including Chiropractic and other alternative forms of care and still not have good results. When that happens to patients in my office I start to look for atypical causes for headaches. TMJ syndrome is one common cause of headaches which can be frequently overlooked.

The Tempromandibular joint or TMJ is a hinge joint which has a cushion or disc in it and it can cause headaches. The joint is very close to nerves which provide feeling to the face. If injury occurs to the TMJ, pain can be felt in the joint area or face or head. This joint does not have a good blood supply so injuries will be slow to heal and abnormal function can occur and cause headaches.

You can check to see if your jaw is out of alignment by simple looking in the  mirror. Pull your lips back and look at your bite with your teeth clenched together. Good alignment is present when the space between your two center front teeth lines up with the space between your two bottom front teeth. Next place your fingers on the jaw joint. This is right in front of your ears. Open and close your mouth and feel if the joint moves equally on both sides. If you feel or see a shift, abnormal function is present. Of course if you feel or hear any popping, that is an indication of the joint not working properly. The last test is to see how wide you can open your mouth. Normal mouth opening should be close to 3 knuckles between the top and bottom row of teeth.

The next concern is: how did the abnormal function occur? Your dentist can tell you if you clench or grind your teeth with sleeping. These actions put a great deal of additional stress on the joint. Remember you use the joint with speaking and with eating. All day long, the joint is working. Sleep allows the joint to recover. If you grind or clench, more wear and tear will occur. I know a very nice young man who developed TMJ because he tapped his teeth as he listened to music. He does very well when he remembers not to do this and of course get his jaw adjusted when he forgets.

Another cause of TMJ syndrome is trauma. Whiplash injuries, like those that occur in car accidents, can result in damage. When the head is whipped backwards the jaw lags behind slightly. Then when the head whips forward, abrupt closure of the mouth can damage the jaw joint. Of course, getting struck in the mouth from sports or fights can trigger TMJ pain and headaches.

If you think you have TMJ syndrome, feel free to contact my office or any chiropractor. We would be happy to see if your headaches or jaw pain is TMJ related.


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