Migraine and jaw pain are connected. The common element between the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and migraine headaches is the fifth cranial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve. The primary function of the trigeminal nerve is to provide sensation to the face, jaw, and forehead region. However, the nerve also gives sensation to the covering of the brain and intracranial arteries. This common innervation by the trigeminal nerve is the physiological basis for the connection between migraines and TMJ disorders.
Here we cover migraine symptoms, migraine causes, the connection between the TMJ and migraine, and how to get TMJ migraine relief.
Migraine headaches are typically experienced as a pounding, throbbing, or pulsating headache and are often debilitating to those who suffer from them. It is common to have nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are typically experienced in defined stages, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Prodrome Stage – Occurs 1-2 days before the migraine and includes:
Aura Stage – Visual and sensory changes unique to migraines, described as:
Migraine Headache Stage – Symptoms last 4-72 hours and include:
Postdrome Stage – The 24 hours after an attack, people feel:
The causes of migraine headaches are complex and incompletely understood. There is a hereditary component to migraines and its genetic underpinnings are being worked out. Particular attention is being played to the “soup” of chemical mediators that accumulate during a migraine. These neurochemicals cause inflammation, dilation of brain blood vessels, and nerve sensitization. It was previously thought that blood vessel dilation was the primary cause of migraines, but this appears to be a secondary effect.
Above all, the migraine brain is one that exhibits hyperexcitability, making nerve sensitization the true origin of migraines. Nerve sensitization is a two-way relationship; nerves located on the face and neck can sensitize brain neurons, leading to headache symptoms (peripheral sensitization), and headache can cause peripheral nerve sensitization, leading to abnormal skin sensitivity and muscle pain in the scalp, face, and neck (central sensitization).
“The connection between TMJ disorders and migraines is complex and bidirectional. People with migraines often have jaw pain and people with TMJ disorders often suffer migraines,” explains Bradley Eli, DMD, MS, an Orofacial Pain Specialist. Here are some facts that describe this complex connection:
As noted above, the trigeminal nerve complex is the common physical connection between migraines and TMJ disorders. The first branch of the trigeminal nerve surrounds the brain covering and arteries. The third branch relays sensory input from the face, jaw, neck, and forehead. Both branches converge in the brainstem, where they share common connections to other parts of the brain responsible for pain modulation. This explains the bidirectional nature of the condition, featuring both central and peripheral sensitization.
A TMJ migraine is a migraine headache triggered by TMJ pain through peripheral sensitization. The literature supports the idea that treating TMJ pain helps alleviate migraine headaches. TMJ migraines can be treated with medications, Botox injections, and even acupuncture, but there are some conservative and self-care therapies that you can try first.
The best way to achieve jaw pain relief is through a multimodal strategy. This should include:
All of these measures are included as part of the Speed2Treat® Home Healing Kit. We provide everything you need to get started immediately, including the QuickSplint® anterior bite guard. If you are having migraines and jaw pain, Home Healing Kit is an excellent way to get rapid jaw pain relief.