TMJ Headaches vs Migraines

tmj headaches vs migrainesErie, Harborcreek and Millcreek, PA

Migraine headaches afflict approximately 30 million people in the United States. Curiously, despite decades of medical documentation regarding migraines, there is no unanimous consensus on what causes migraine headaches. While the roots of this affliction remain shrouded in mystery, there is no denying that migraines can impede your ability to function on a daily basis.

Did you know, though, that many patients who think they suffer from migraine headaches actually are experiencing headaches caused by temporomandibular joint disorder?

What happens when you have a migraine?

When someone has a migraine, his or her brain chemistry changes for as long as a migraine lasts. Serotonin levels decrease significantly; meanwhile, the trigeminal nerve—which carries more sensory input to the brain than any other neural pathway in your body—releases signaling compounds that travel to the outer covering of your brain. These compounds proceed to trigger impulses of pain.

Common symptoms of migraine headaches include the following:

  • Pain, ranging from acute to severe, or throbbing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Distortion in vision, such as seeing flashes of light

Why are TMJ headaches mistaken for migraines?

Both migraines and TMJ headaches occur after an aggravation of the trigeminal nerve. As mentioned earlier, this nerve is an extremely important neural pathway. It also is closely located to the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the skull.

When a patient develops TMJ, it occurs because the temporomandibular joint begins to malfunction for any one of a variety of reasons. This dysfunction typically leads to jaw problems, such as a misalignment or a poorly aligned bite.

TMJ headaches and migraines are, quite simply, two different varieties of tension headaches. Over time, TMJ can cause problems in the surrounding musculature, creating excessive tightness in the jaw, scalp, and neck. As these muscles tighten, it causes undue compression on the blood vessels, which also exerts additional pressure on the corresponding nerves.

Do I have TMJ headaches or migraines?

In addition to the pain, which is caused by a headache, TMJ headaches have several of the same symptoms as migraines, including dizziness and distorted vision. For these reasons, TMJ headaches often are misdiagnosed as migraines.

A patient with TMJ headaches, for example, may not respond as well to normal migraine treatments. These medications may only alleviate the intensity of the headaches, not their frequency.

A neuromuscular dentist is the best-qualified medical professional to differentiate TMJ headaches from migraines. Focusing on the alignment of the bite and jaw, a neuromuscular dentist has significant post-graduate training after dental school that gives them the knowledge to diagnose and treat a case of TMJ.

At Laser Dentistry of Erie, LLC, Dr. Albert Starr has been using his knowledge of neuromuscular dentistry to help patients in the Erie, PA, area find lasting relief from the debilitating pain that can come from a case of TMJ. If you or someone you love has been suffering from migraines but has yet to find a long-term solution for pain, a case of TMJ could be the cause.

For more information about TMJ headaches, click here or call our office at (814) 825-2615 to schedule a consultation, as we find many people better understand this complicated topic after a face-to-face meeting.

Laser Dentistry of Erie. LLC is proud to care for patients in Erie, PA, and the surrounding areas.