Migraine Headache vs. TMJ Headache: Which One Do You Have?

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You may have heard that one of the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a “migraine-like headache.” This is accurate in that both can cause debilitating pain and both can result in lost productivity and relentless discomfort. But the causes and symptoms of these two types of headache are not the same.

Migraine headaches are a neurological disorder. The underlying cause is not always known, but symptoms include:

  • Dull, sometimes throbbing pain in the face or neck
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visual aurora, flashes of light, and distorted vision

Migraine headaches often require prescription medication to treat and may be a lifelong issue for people who struggle with them.

Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ headaches are a neuromuscular disorder. The underlying cause is misalignment of the jaw. Common symptoms of the disorder include clicking and popping in the jaw, grinding noises when chewing, jaw pain and swelling, and uneven tooth wear.

Additional symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Face and head pain
  • Pressure behind the eyes or in the sinuses
  • Ear pain and ringing
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain

Other symptoms, such as tingling in the fingers, dizziness, and sleep problems may also accompany TMJ.

Treating TMJ

Unlike migraine headaches, TMJ is not best treated with medications, although these may be useful in muscle relaxation. More commonly, however, TMJ is treated through dental services such as an occlusal guard, orthodontic correction, or smile restoration. Biofeedback, muscle relaxation, and stress reduction may be useful in the treatment of TMJ as well. In many cases, sustained treatment is not necessary, though some lifestyle changes may be needed to maintain lasting comfort.

Have You Been Misdiagnosed?

According to the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, TMJ is one of the most commonly overlooked and misdiagnosed causes of headaches. If you have been diagnosed with any type of headache but have not had your jaw assessed by a neuromuscular dentist, it may be a good idea to bring your condition to our attention for a TMJ evaluation. Utilizing advanced diagnostics and time-tested hands-on evaluation techniques, we can help determine if a misaligned jaw is contributing to your chronic pain and help to create a plan that addresses the root cause to produce lasting comfort.

Please call Warr Dental at 801-355-5385 to schedule your neuromuscular dentistry evaluation today. Located in Salt Lake City, we serve all surrounding communities, including Provo, Park City, and Draper.