Jaw related headaches
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. Your TMJ allows you to talk, chew and yawn. But the joint’s supporting muscles may also be the source of your headaches.
A number of the TMJ muscles may contribute to the pain. These are located underneath the jaw and in the cheeks, and on the top and sides of the head. Headaches can be generated from these muscles that move your jaw.
Your jaw muscles tighten when you chew, grind or clench your teeth. The pain from your jaw created by the clenching then travels to other places in the skull, causing headaches or, in severe cases, migraines. These muscles can in some cases also experience toothaches, earaches or shoulder pain.
Physiotherapy is a common first-line treatment for TMJ-associated pain and dysfunction. It is a favourable treatment option because it is simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive; and can be easily implemented in the clinic.
The physiotherapy approach includes:
- assessing your jaw function and determining whether you are likely to be experiencing a TMJ headache;
- correctly identifying which muscle group is responsible;
- addressing the cause of the dysfunction for long-term improvement.
Pain relief is achieved by performing jaw muscle massage, relaxation techniques, joint mobilisation, TMJ movement correction exercises, or other tools suited to your condition.
The aim of treatment will be targeted towards normalising your TMJ function, joint motion, muscle tensions, muscle timing and coordination.
Other problem areas that may cause headaches
There are other areas of the body: the shoulders, the neck and the head that can contribute to your headaches and pain when they become tight or tense. Your physiotherapist may also look into your posture alignment. From there, they can provide advice on exercises to correct and improve your posture, strengthening the relevant muscles in order to retain a long lasting effect.
Sean Li – BAppSc (Physio), MAPA