Behind dental cavities, migraines are the third most common illness in the world, affecting about 14 percent of the population. Migraines can start as a throbbing sensation, then develop into nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light, vision loss, and severe pain in one side of the head that can last up to fifteen hours. Those who suffer from frequent migraines know how debilitating they can be, as well as how difficult they are to prevent and treat. That’s because the initial cause of migraines is unknown.
A new study, however, could provide some answers. Conducted by the NIH, the study found that those with chronic migraines are also three times more likely to have symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ. The temporomandibular joint functions as the hinge linking the jaw muscle to the rest of the head, and when the joint is weakened, it can affect the surrounding structures.
What Makes Migraines so Difficult to Understand?
Much like TMJ, migraines are not one condition but an amalgam of complex interactions between different parts of the body. In the case of migraines, your nerves and blood vessels. What this means is that even though patients share similar migraine symptoms, the causes of migraines are not the same for everyone. For some, migraines are thought to be genetic, and for others, they’re are thought to be caused by high blood pressure, irregularities in blood vessel systems, central nervous disorders, or even TMJ. Because of this, migraine treatment requires a variety of approaches which won’t always work from every patient.
Could TMJ Cause a Migraine?
With the available migraine research, the link between TMJ and migraines has not been verified.
That being said, some research does suggest a possible link between the trigeminal nerve, migraines, and TMJ. During a migraine, the trigeminal nerve can release vasodilators, causing inflammation in the blood vessels which results in pain. The same response can happen in the trigeminal nerve during a TMJ episode, as seven of the eight muscles controlled by the trigeminal nerve fire during biting, chewing, and swallowing. If these muscles have been weakened, it’s likely to cause dysfunction in the surrounding structures.
The link between TMJ and migraines has yet to be verified by medical research, but we do know that TMJ treatment may reduce the frequency and severity of various types of headaches, including tension headaches. Treating TMJ can also help fight against jaw pain, neck pain, and other related symptoms.
TMJ treatments such as corrective mouth guards and TENS treatment, can often provide needed relief to patients seeking drug-free treatment options.