We know that temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) are linked with migraines. But TMJ is not a singular condition. It’s actually an umbrella term that describes several closely linked conditions that share symptoms but are quite different. So are all TMJs linked to migraines, or just some types?

That’s the focus of a new study, which shows that it’s specifically TMJ muscle pain, not joint-related problems, that are most commonly linked to migraines. This is good news: at The Durham Office, we can help relieve muscle pain so that you can enjoy migraine relief. 

Young woman in a flannel shirt holding her eye glasses and pinching the ridge of her nose due to Migraines. We've learned so much about how your Jaw Muscle Pain can be linked to your headaches.

TMJ Muscle Pain Means More Frequent & Severe Migraines

For this study, published in the Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache, researchers looked at data from the Health 2000 survey in Finland. They considered data from 5876 adults, of whom 498 had migraines. Respondents answered questions about whether they had migraines, how often they had migraines, and what medication they took in response to their migraines. 

Respondents were also examined for TMJ, which distinguished not just the presence of TMJ, but also the type of the condition. 

Data analysis showed that people with TMJ-related muscle pain were 58% more likely to have migraines. Not only that, but people with TMJ-related migraines were 93% more likely to have more frequent migraines (multiple attacks per week, or even daily migraines). And TMJ-related muscle pain was linked to higher migraine medication consumption–if you had this type of jaw pain, you were 137% more likely to take higher doses of medication. 

It is, of course, not surprising to find this connection. It points again to the trigeminal nerve as being the link between migraines and TMJ: overstressed and painful jaw muscles can overwhelm the trigeminal nerve, leading to the release of migraine-triggering compounds. 

We Can Calm Tense, Painful Jaw Muscles

This study is good news: it links migraines to a type of TMJ that can be treated easily (and relatively quickly). Tense and painful jaw muscles are often caused by poor jaw position. When the jaw can’t sit at its position of maximum rest, the jaw muscles stay tense and they get sore. In order to get these muscles to relax, we need to reposition the jaw at a position of rest. 

We start doing this with TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), a kind of electric massage that can immediately lead to relaxed jaw muscles. 

But while it can cause relief,  for most people, TENS is just the first part of the diagnosis. Relaxing your muscles lets us determine the proper relaxed position for your jaw. Then we can design an orthotic (bite splint) that holds you jaw in this position. You’ll wear this all day at first, but you can ease off to wearing it just at night after a while. Within a few weeks, you should notice your muscle tension goes away. With it, your migraines will diminish. 

Many people like the results they get with the orthotic, but don’t like the orthotic. If that’s the case for you, once we’ve established this jaw position works for you, we can perform a full mouth reconstruction to build up your teeth so they hold your jaw in this position without the orthotic. 

Looking for Migraine Relief in Savannah?

Are you unhappy with the frequency and severity of your migraines? Have your doctors been unable to give you relief? Let us evaluate whether TMJ could be behind your headaches. Please call (912) 234-8282 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at The Durham Office in Savannah.