For years, studies have been linking chronic migraine with the pain associated with the chewing muscles. But despite a more specific correlation with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) that so many patients had personally experienced, researchers had yet to nail down the precise link between the two pain conditions. This week, Brazilian researchers finally shed some light on the relationship between migraines and TMJ.
Study Analyzes Migraine Frequency, TMJ Intensity
Researchers at the University of São Paulo’s school of medicine recently tackled the link between chronic migraine and TMJ. There were 84 adult women who were monitored for the study. Of those women, 21 had chronic migraines, 32 had episodic migraines, and 32 more were controls who had no history of migraine. For the study, researchers monitored the participants for signs and symptoms of TMJ, and then compared how those symptoms lined up with their migraine experiences.
The results were striking: While only approximately half of the control patients showed symptoms of TMJ, a whopping 80% of the participants who suffer from episodic migraines demonstrated signs of the disorder, and all — yes, 100% — of the chronic migraine sufferers showed symptoms. Not only did the results show that those who suffer from more migraines were more likely to have TMJ, but they also showed that the more frequent the migraine attacks, the more severe the TMJ pain was.
Although researchers did not find evidence that TMJ causes migraines, they interpreted their research to mean that the presence of TMJ may very well increase the frequency and severity of a patient’s migraines. Armed with this knowledge, it’s more important than ever that doctors treating migraine patients keep an eye out for symptoms of TMJ.
TMJ Treatment Can Help Migraines
Since TMJ is essentially a misalignment of the jaw, it results in tension created in the head and neck (and sometimes even the back). This muscle tension can lead to tension headaches, which can in turn trigger a migraine. This chain of events has led TMJ patients and migraine sufferers all over the world to learn from their own experiences what Brazilian researchers so recently confirmed: TMJ and migraines are painfully linked.
The good news is that while migraines are poorly understood and can be difficult to treat and prevent, medical research has a much better handle on TMJ. In fact, your dentist can provide effective, non-surgical treatment for TMJ in the form of a bite splint. A bite splint is an orthotic appliance custom designed for your mouth. An experienced neuromuscular dentist like Dr. Paul Hahn or Dr. Adam Hahn can create a bite splint that can hold your jaw in the position of least tension, relieving muscle stress and taking the pressure off your fragile jaw joints.