Temporo-mandibular joint disorder and headaches

Temporo-mandibular joint disorders (TMD) have long been known to be associated with headaches.  A very interesting study conducted in Brazil and published in the Clinical Journal of Pain examined this association in 300 patients with TMD. The researchers carefully evaluated the type of TMD and its severity as well as the type of headache that might have been also present. Compared to those without TMD, patients with myofascial type of TMD were more likely to have chronic daily headaches, migraines and tension-type headaches. The more severe was TMD pain, the more likely it was that these headache conditions were present. An important question which is not answered by this study is, what comes first – TMD or headaches? It is likely that having one condition can cause and make the other worse, forming a vicious cycle. I see patients who can clearly identify that they first developed pain in the jaw and then headaches came along, but treating only their TMD does not seem to help. There are many more patients who present with headaches as the main complaint but who also have TMD. The treatment should always be directed at both conditions and many treatments we use have been shown to be effective for people with only TMD or only headaches. These treatments include regular aerobic exercise, biofeedback, acupuncture, Botox injections, massage, and medications. The list of medications include NSAIDs, such as aspirin (or Migralex), Advil, and Aleve, antidepressants, such as Elavil, Pamelor, and Cymbalta, epilepsy drugs, such as Neurontin and muscle relaxants, such as Zanaflex.

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