Like a toothache, TMJ pain can range from just a little discomfort to severe pain, and anywhere in between. Unlike a toothache, however, TMJ pain is not relegated to just one area of your mouth or jaw, but can actually spread to a variety of areas throughout your head, neck, face, shoulders, and more.
Headaches, for instance, or a common chronic symptom of TMJ disorder, and is often due to the stress that the dysfunction places on your jaw’s nerves. We can offer a few tips for temporary TMJ pain and headache relief. But, if a jaw dysfunction is the cause of your troubles, then we advise seeking professional treatment from your dentist as soon as possible.
What is a TMJ Headache?
TMJ disorder describes any of a number of dysfunctional issues with your jaw’s joints – known as temporomandibular joints. When TMJs are damaged, inflamed, or unable to operate properly, they can aggravate the trigeminal nerves next to them. The nerves can then transfer the pain to other areas along their path, creating a variety of symptoms that often include chronic headaches and migraines.
Relieving TMJ and headache pain can be accomplished by alleviating pressure on the nerves. That may require one or more professional dental treatments to correct bite misalignment, realign an asymmetrical jaw, or address other contributing causes to your TMJ disorder. Until then, however, you may be able to find temporary headache relief with a few tips you can practice at home or at work.
Temporary TMJ Headache Relief
- Your TMJs are located just in front of each ear, and are the pivots that allow your lower jaw to move. If you’re struck with a TMJ headache, try gently massaging the joints (close to your temples) to relieve TMJ pressure.
- Place an ice pack, cold compress, or a plastic sandwich bag full of ice on one or both sides of your jaw, over the joints. The cold will help alleviate pain.
- You can also alternate the cold with a heating pad or hot water bottle to simultaneously relax the jaw’s muscles and joints for even more relief.
- Wear a custom-made sleepguard designed by your dentist to help keep your jaw joints properly and comfortably aligned while you sleep. The dual benefit of a sleepguard is that it may also help you stop grinding your teeth at night (bruxism), which can be a major contributor to TMJ pain and headaches.