Migraine Jaw Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment | Mewing.coach
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Migraine Jaw Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment


    Migraine jaw pain

    Struggling with both throbbing headaches and jaw discomfort? You might not be alone. A whopping 67% of people with TMJ disorders also experience migraines according to a 2017 study. This surprising link suggests a deeper connection between these conditions.

    This article dives into the migraine-jaw pain puzzle, exploring how they’re diagnosed and what treatment options can help you find relief.


    The Link Between Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) & Headache

    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your jaw to your skull, can be a surprising source of pain during headaches. Here’s why:

    • Muscle Tension: Migraines often cause muscle tightness throughout the head and neck, including the jaw. This tension can lead to pain and tenderness in the TMJ area.
    • Trigeminal Nerve: This key nerve supplies sensation to the face, scalp, and jaw. When involved in migraines, irritation of the trigeminal nerve can trigger jaw pain alongside the head throbbing.
    • Referred Pain: Sometimes, pain from other headache regions like the temples or forehead can be “referred” to the jaw, creating a confusing experience.

    Beyond migraines, underlying conditions like TMJ disorder (TMD) or dental problems can worsen jaw discomfort.

    Treatment and Relief:

    Mewing, a practice involving proper tongue posture and oral posture alignment, is incredibly helpful in relieving temporomandibular joint (TMJ) related headaches. Mewing promotes proper alignment of the jaw and tongue, which may alleviate tension in the temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles. Read more about the practice of mewing and temporomandibular joint in this blog.

    Simple TMJ exercises for pain relief might also help. Practicing gentle jaw stretches and alternating jaw opening/closing to address TMJ pain. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercises.

    Symptoms of Migraine Jaw Pain

    The telltale signs of migraine jaw pain can differ from a typical migraine. While throbbing head pain might be absent, you may experience tightness or soreness in your jaw muscles, or clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing your mouth. You might also feel difficulty chewing or limited jaw movement.

    These symptoms can be accompanied by facial pressure, pain radiating to the temples, or neck stiffness, further blurring the lines between migraine and TMJ involvement.

    Jaw Tightness

    A hallmark symptom of migraine-related jaw pain is jaw tightness. This can feel like your jaw muscles are clenched or stiff, making it difficult to relax your jaw even when you try. There’s an overall feeling of tension in your jaw area. This tightness can worsen the throbbing pain of a migraine and make it harder to function normally.

    For some, it can even contribute to increased pain around the temples, facial tenderness, and difficulty chewing. You can try some of the tight jaw relaxing techniques to help ease the stiffness during migraines, like gently massaging your jaw muscles or applying a warm compress.

    Jaw Soreness

    Another common symptom is jaw soreness. This can feel like a general tenderness or achy feeling in your jaw muscles, similar to how your muscles feel after a tough workout.

    Unlike a throbbing migraine headache, jaw soreness is a more constant dull ache that may linger even after the migraine subsides. This soreness can make it difficult to chew or speak normally, significantly impacting your daily activities.

    Clicking or Popping Sensations

    Have you ever experienced a clicking or popping sound in your jaw joint when chewing or yawning during a migraine?  This isn’t uncommon. Increased muscle tension around the jaw during migraines can cause the TMJ to become misaligned, leading to these clicking or popping sensations.

    While occasional clicking might not be a cause for concern, frequent or painful clicking warrants a visit to a healthcare professional to rule out underlying TMJ disorders. Read our blog post on how to get rid of clicking jaw to learn some self-care techniques.

    Facial Pressure

    Migraine jaw pain often comes with a companion – facial pressure. This can feel like a tightness or heaviness in your entire face, especially around the jawline and temples. This pressure can worsen the discomfort of your migraine and make it harder to relax.

    Some techniques used for face tension relief may provide some solace, like applying a warm compress or gently massaging your face.

    Temple Pain

    Classic throbbing or pulsating pain in the temples is a tell-tale sign of migraines. During a migraine, this temple pain can sometimes radiate to other areas of the head, including the jaw.

    This can worsen the jaw pain you’re already experiencing and create a feeling of overall tightness or pressure in your head.  This radiating pain makes it difficult to distinguish between the migraine and potential TMJ involvement.

    Neck Stiffness

    Many people experience a feeling of stiffness or tightness in their neck muscles during migraine attacks. This neck stiffness can further tighten the jaw muscles, worsening the jaw pain and contributing to an overall feeling of muscle tension in the head and neck area. This tight feeling can make it difficult to move your head and neck freely.

    Poor posture, especially “tech neck” from looking down at devices for extended periods, can also contribute to neck tension and worsen migraine symptoms. Among some tried and tested tips to prevent ‘tech neck’, there are stretches and exercises that can help improve neck flexibility and posture.

    Migraine Diagnosis and Differential Diagnosis

    When assessing migraine-related jaw pain, a comprehensive approach is crucial. Here’s an overview of diagnostic steps:

    1. Medical History:

    It includes gathering information about the patient’s symptoms, triggers, frequency, and duration of headaches. The doctor will explore any family history of migraines or other relevant conditions.

    1. Physical Examination:

    Physical examination includes the assessment of the jaw joint (TMJ) for tenderness, clicking, or restricted movement. The doctor examines the neck, head, and facial muscles for tension or trigger points. Evaluation of dental health and occlusion is also carried out.

    1. Imaging Studies:

    X-rays, CT scans, or MRI may reveal structural abnormalities in the jaw or surrounding areas. This is done to rule out other causes like dental issues, sinus problems, or tumors.

    The key lies in differentiating migraine jaw pain from other conditions with similar symptoms.  These include:

    • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD): This joint disorder can cause jaw pain, clicking, and limited movement.
    • Dental Issues:  Problems like teeth grinding or misalignment can lead to jaw pain.
    • Tension Headaches:  These headaches can cause facial pressure and tenderness that can mimic migraine jaw pain.

    Migraine Treatment and Management

    Migraine jaw pain is manageable! Here, we’ll explore various treatment options, from medications and lifestyle modifications to complementary therapies. Whether focusing on prevention or managing acute attacks, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to combat both migraines and jaw pain.  First, let’s delve into preventive measures.

    Lifestyle Modifications

    Mewing Technique

    In managing migraines, lifestyle modifications play a crucial role, and incorporating the mewing technique can be beneficial.

    Proper mewing involves maintaining tongue posture against the roof of the mouth, promoting optimal jaw alignment and relieving tension in the jaw muscles. By encouraging proper mewing, individuals can potentially alleviate migraine-related jaw pain.

    To assist in mastering this technique, consider using the Mewing Coach app. This app provides guidance and exercises to ensure proper mewing, helping you achieve optimal oral posture for improved jaw health. Don’t hesitate to explore this expert recommended technique as part of your migraine treatment regimen.

    Stress Management Techniques

    Implementing stress-reduction techniques is crucial while coping with jaw pain from stress. Relaxation exercises, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can alleviate stress-related triggers for migraines and jaw pain. Additionally, mindfulness meditation and biofeedback are effective approaches for managing stress and promoting relaxation, providing relief for individuals experiencing jaw pain due to stress.

    Dietary Modifications

    What you eat can play a surprising role in both migraine and jaw pain. Certain foods and beverages have been linked to triggering these conditions, while a well-balanced diet can contribute to overall health and potentially lessen migraine frequency.

    Common culprits triggering migraine and jaw pain include caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. Keeping a food diary to identify your personal triggers is crucial.

    A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support overall health and potentially reduce migraine frequency.

    Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and well-being. Whole grains offer sustained energy and fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and potentially reduce migraine frequency. While lean proteins provide essential building blocks for the body and can help promote satiety, preventing blood sugar crashes that might trigger headaches.

    Regular Exercise

    Regular exercise isn’t just good for your physical health; it can also be a powerful tool in managing migraines and jaw pain. Exercise promotes healthy blood flow, which can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. Also, physical activity is a natural stress reliever, and chronic stress is a known trigger for both migraines and jaw pain.

    Moreover, exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers, offering temporary relief from migraine pain and promoting feelings of well-being.

    While high-intensity workouts may not be suitable for everyone, low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga can be highly beneficial. Consistency is key, so aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

    Medications for Migraine Jaw Pain

    Managing migraine jaw pain often involves a multi-pronged approach, and medications can play a significant role. Here’s a breakdown of the various options:

    Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

    For mild to moderate migraine pain and associated jaw discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are often the first line of defense. It’s crucial to follow recommended dosages and consult your healthcare professional before taking any medication.

    These medications can cause side effects like gastrointestinal upset or, in the case of acetaminophen, liver toxicity with high or prolonged use.

    Prescription Medications

    For more intense migraines, doctors may prescribe triptans (sumatriptan, rizatriptan) or ergotamines (ergotamine tartrate) to target the underlying mechanisms of a migraine and alleviate associated jaw pain.

    While effective for many, these prescription medications can have side effects like nausea, dizziness, or medication overuse headache if not used judiciously. Consulting your doctor is crucial to determine if they are suitable for you.

    Preventive Medications

    For individuals with chronic migraines and frequent jaw discomfort, preventive medications can be a game-changer. These medications work by reducing the frequency and severity of migraines and their associated symptoms, including jaw pain.

    Common preventive options include beta-blockers (propranolol), anticonvulsants (topiramate), or antidepressants (amitriptyline). Each medication works differently, and your doctor will guide you on the most suitable choice based on your individual needs and medical history.

    Complementary Therapies

    Managing migraine and jaw pain often extends beyond medications. Explore complementary therapies that can offer valuable support:

    Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care

    Both acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments aim to reduce muscle tension, a common contributor to migraine and jaw pain. Acupuncture uses thin needles inserted at specific points, while chiropractic adjustments focus on manipulating joints to improve mobility and alignment.

    While these therapies can be beneficial, it’s crucial to seek qualified and licensed practitioners to ensure safety and effectiveness.

    Massage Therapy and Herbal Supplements

    Massage therapy, using techniques like Swedish massage, trigger point therapy, or myofascial release, can help ease muscle tension and promote relaxation, potentially reducing migraine and jaw pain.

    Some people find relief with herbal supplements like magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), or feverfew. However, it’s vital to consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplements, as they can interact with medications or have unintended side effects.

    Relaxation Techniques

    Stress is a known trigger for both migraines and jaw pain. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage stress, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate migraine-related jaw pain.

    These techniques work by calming the autonomic nervous system, the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. By promoting relaxation, they can contribute to overall well-being and potentially reduce pain perception.

    Acute Treatment Options

    A migraine attack with jaw pain can be debilitating, but there are steps you can take to find relief. Here, we explore various acute treatment options:

    Non-Pharmacological Interventions

    Applying a cold compress to your forehead and a warm compress to your jaw can be a simple yet effective way to manage pain. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels, potentially reducing inflammation and pain. It provides a numbing effect, temporarily alleviating discomfort.

    On the other hand, warmth from heat therapy dilates blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and potentially reducing pain. Heat provides soothing comfort during migraine episodes.

    Both heat and cold therapy can provide temporary relief from migraine and jaw discomfort.

    Over-the-Counter Medications

    For mild to moderate migraine pain and jaw discomfort, over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), can offer relief. Some combination analgesics containing caffeine can also be helpful.

    It’s crucial to follow recommended dosages and consult your healthcare professional before taking any medication. Be mindful of potential side effects like gastrointestinal upset, liver toxicity with prolonged use, or rebound headaches with frequent use of pain relievers.

    Prescription Medications

    If your migraine attack is severe and accompanied by significant jaw pain, prescription medications might be necessary. Triptans (sumatriptan, rizatriptan) are a common class of medications that target the underlying mechanisms of migraines and can alleviate associated jaw pain.

    Early intervention is key. The sooner you take these medications after the onset of your migraine, the more effective they are in reducing its duration and severity. Consulting your doctor is crucial to determine if prescription medications are suitable for you and to learn the proper administration protocols.

    Final Thoughts

    Migraine jaw pain, while complex, is not an enigma. By understanding the potential causes, seeking an accurate diagnosis, and exploring various treatment options, you can effectively manage this condition. Remember, your jawline change as you get older and these changes can sometimes contribute to jaw pain.

    Don’t hesitate to seek professional evaluation and explore personalized treatment plans, including complementary therapies, to regain control and improve your quality of life. Together, you and your healthcare professional can create a successful strategy to conquer migraines and their jaw-related companions.

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    Head of Content, orthodontist, a face yoga instructor with over 20 years of experience.

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