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Chronic Headaches? It could well be your jaw…

Written by Dr Katie Willy

pterygoid headache | TMJ dysfunction

Do you have chronic headaches that might be jaw related?

Chronic headaches are a dime a dozen in society but with so many different causes you can end up with just taking medication in an attempt to mask those headache symptoms.  The jaw is a commonly forgotten structure that can be quite a problem with chronic headaches. But what we need to think about is where the attachments for the jaw muscles are as well as the interaction of that jaw bone (the mandible) with the skull (temporal bone). This gives us a clearer look at why your jaw may be the cause of chronic headaches.

Signs of  jaw headaches:

  • Waking up with headaches
  • Headache doesn’t improve as they day progresses
  • Soreness or irritation in your eyes
  • Do you hear or feel you jaw click?
  • Tight feeling in front of your ear, in your jaw joint (know as the TMJ which stands for “temporo-mandibular joint”)
  • Do you notice if you grind (or has someone told you that you d o ie. partner, dentist)
  • Do you find you clench your teeth during the day
  • Are you under stress regularly

Now you don’t have to experience this entire list, but if a few bullet-points hit the mark, jaw tension is the likely scenario.
Jaw-related headaches are commonly overlooked by many medical professions as a cause of chronic headaches. Despite the headaches feeling so intense, often making us think this is a tough problem, the treatment for the jaw is quite easy and successful to relieve the pain.

How can the jaw cause chronic headaches?

It’s simply trigger points in small muscles in the mouth towards your back teeth called pterygoids, that refer pain to the head and consequently give you headaches. Many clients don’t quite understand how this happens but the successful treatment speaks volumes & convinces them otherwise.  Osteopaths know how to reach these muscles and apply massage to reduce their spasm.
It is common to have an upper neck issue alongside the jaw problem, so don’t be surprised if you feel jammed up near the base of your skull.

What can you do to help your jaw related chronic headache?

  • Reflect on whether you are clenching your teeth together (and rectify by assessing frequently throughout the day)
  • Meditation before bed can help relax you when stress is heightened and prevent grinding
  • Deep breathing exercises during the day helps to relax the jaw
  • Neck stretches
  • If you know how, massage your pterygoids (our Osteopaths regularly teach this techniques to sufferers as a self-management strategy)
  • See your osteopath for a solution and self-management strategies.
  • Craniosacral Therapy is another option for jaw and skull assessment and treatment
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