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Can TMJ cause headaches? This is a common question today. Millions of people experience a telltale pain that radiates from the head and neck. This is usually preceded in by stiffness in the jaw. In most cases, the pain arising from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is mistaken for a normal headache because of the similarity of the symptoms. Consequently, this type of headache is perhaps the most misdiagnosed and least understood.

Even then, there are some differences that distinguish TMJ headaches from the tension headaches. By being able to accurately identify the kind of headache you are experiencing, you can be sure to find the appropriate relief before the sensation gets out of control.

TMJ Pain or Headache?

According to a study conducted by the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, headaches that are linked to TMJ disorder are commonly misdiagnosed. Healthcare providers are likely to diagnose TMJ headaches inaccurately as the regular stress-induced headache when the source could be preventable.


Tracking the TMJ headache symptoms is a great way of distinguishing between the pain and address the appropriate cause as well as find a lasting relief fast. Some of the common symptoms of pain that radiates from TMJ include the following:

  • Facial tenderness and pain
  • Earaches
  • Stiffness of the joint that makes it difficult to close or open your mouth
  • A grinding or cracking sound when moving your jaw.

It is not likely that the headaches that arise from TMJ cause symptoms that are associated with severe headaches and migraines such as sensitivity to sound or light, nausea and fatigue. Even then, a TMJ headache may initiate a migraine for those people that are susceptible to them, hence the more reason TMJ pain is a vital part of your health.

How to Cope with It

One of the most appropriate ways of coping with TMJ pain and head off a full-blown is addressing the pain at the source. It is possible to prevent some of the symptoms by avoiding unnecessary use of your jaw as well as participating in some simple stress relieving exercises. Here are some of the ways of preventing TMJ headache and dealing with the pain associated with it:

  • Use mouthwash or mints. If you frequently chew gum, it may be time you consider eliminating that habit. This is because it tends to overuse the jaw muscles that can result in the inflammation of the TMJ, leading to stiffness and pain. Thus, to keep your breath fresh, consider sucking a mint or even swishing mouthwash to remove the bad breath and put less stress on the jaw.
  • Deal with anxiety at the source. Stress is one of the common triggers of TMJ pain. This is because most people will tense their jaws when they are under pressure to meet deadlines, deal with family drama or are in an uncomfortable situation. Taking part in exercises for about half an hour, taking a yoga class or taking short breaks from stressful work is a good way to relax naturally.
  • Massage your jaw. Kneading the TMJ gently may help to increase the flow of blood to the area, allowing you to do away with most of the inflammation and pain. You can do this by placing your fingers on your TMJ and pressing down against the joint while massaging in circular a motion. Carry on until the area desensitizes and you experience a relief.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. When you notice stiffness or tenderness of your jaw, taking pain relievers can help reduce inflammation before it becomes problematic. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions. Addressing the symptoms in good time is the key to ensuring that the tenderness and stiffness does not become chronic.


The TMJ headache treatment is not very different from that of non-TMJ headaches. The first step in treatment is determining the type of headache that you are experiencing. This can be done with the help of a primary physician.

Headaches that are not complicated may be treated by a general practitioner without referring you to a specialist. The treatments vary from abortive medications to counter medications and preventive medications such as Topamax. If your general practitioner does not have the ability to make an accurate diagnosis of your headache or you have headaches often without relief, then consider seeing a specialist, in this case a neurologist.

While at it, remember to discuss medication overuse headache (MOH) that is a result of taking headache medications often. Usually, a headache that has been present for 15 days or just over a month may be a MOH and these are difficult to treat.

TMJ disorder can cause TMJ headaches which when not treated in good time can be a threat to your overall well-being. Thus, it is important to ensure that the right diagnosis is made so that the right treatment can be administered for TMJ headache relief.