TMJ Headaches vs. Migraines

Did you know that TMJ headaches are often mistaken for migraines?

Headaches associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can be just as persistent and severe as migraines, but they have different solutions. That’s why proper diagnosis is essential for effective treatment and pain relief.

TMJ Headaches vs. Migraines

To determine the source of your headaches, you’ll need to schedule a professional evaluation with an oral surgeon, but it might be helpful to know the characteristics of TMJ headaches and how they differ from migraines.

Symptoms of TMJ Headaches

The causes of TMJ disorder are not scientifically understood, but in many cases, physical stress on the temporomandibular joint and the surrounding structures is a contributing factor. And though not well-proven, tooth grinding, a misaligned bite and orthodontic appliances have also been associated with TMJ disorder.

TMJ disorder is known to cause headaches and referred pain in the sinuses, cheeks, ears, neck and even in the teeth. Most patients also suffer additional symptoms, such as dizziness, jaw muscle stiffness, clicking or popping in the jaw joint, a change in tooth alignment and difficulty opening or closing the mouth.

Symptoms of Migraines

As with TMJ headaches, the causes of migraines are not yet known. Scientists suspect that inflamed blood vessels in the brain or certain genes may be responsible. Stress, anxiety and irregular eating and sleeping schedules are also believed to be associated with migraine attacks.

Migraine headaches are often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light or sound. Many migraines affect only one side of the head, and the pain may get worse with physical activity. Some patients also experience auras before a migraine attack, seeing flashing lights or wavy lines, or having blurred vision.

A common cause of confusion lies in the fact that some symptoms of both TMJ pain and migraine headaches can overlap. Patients may spend time with a neurologist being evaluated for migraines while the answer to their problem lies instead with an oral surgeon.

Treating TMJ Headaches

Although both TMJ headaches and migraines are often categorized as tension headaches, they don’t respond to the same types of treatment.

Migraine treatment typically involves medication, which isn’t usually effective for the head pain resulting from TMJ disorder. On the flip side, TMJ treatments dealing with the jaws and teeth don’t work to alleviate migraines. For that reason, a professional evaluation is essential for headache relief.

If you have repeated, debilitating headaches and want to know if TMJ disorder is the cause, the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can help find the answer and put you on the path to pain relief.

Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield have the qualifications and expertise to diagnose and treat TMJ headaches. Depending on your symptoms and the degree of damage in your jaw, treatment options range from conservative approaches such as night guards to surgery — sometimes the most effective and long-term solution to this painful condition.

Contact one of our three convenient Salt Lake City area offices — in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan and Tooele — and schedule a consultation to discuss TMJ headaches today.