Headaches are one of the most common ailments of modern life. It is so common that more than 90% of people suffer from it at least once in their lives. According to statistics from the Korea Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, there were 1,164,771 headache patients in Korea last year. If medication doesn’t help or the headaches are frequent, a CT scan, MRI, or EEG can sometimes reveal a brain problem. Most of the time, however, they are diagnosed as stress-related, with no clear cause. If you’ve been taking painkillers and making dietary adjustments and the pain doesn’t go away, you may have a headache caused by a disorder of the jaw joint.
Temporomandibular joint disorders that cause tension-type headaches
The jaw joint is a joint located between the lower jaw and the skull that is used to open and close the mouth and move the jaw. TMJ problems occur when this joint doesn’t move smoothly. When the jaw joint moves, various muscles such as the temporalis, masseter, and internal pterygoid muscles move in different directions in a precise manner, and when the surrounding muscles are overstrained due to stress, misaligned teeth, or inaccurate jaw movements, headaches can occur.
“The area around the jaw joint is a sensitive area because it is a nerve-dense area where nine out of 12 cranial nerves pass through,” said Sung Jin-wook, M.D., chief of surgery at Dangdang Medical Center. “When the jaw joint deviates from its normal position, an imbalance in the cranial nerves and autonomic nervous system occurs, causing the surrounding muscles to become overly tense, resulting in tension headaches that stiffen from the area around the jaw joint to the back of the head and nape of the neck.”
Cervicogenic headaches are caused by a condition in the neck or a misalignment of the cervical vertebrae, which affects the nerves that connect to the skull. If you chew your food with only one tooth, or if you have a misaligned jaw that causes your mouth to open and close to one side, your cervical vertebrae 1 and 2 are misaligned along with your jaw. Cervical vertebrae 1 and 2 are the joints that support the skull, are connected by many muscles, and contain nerves, blood vessels, and cerebrospinal fluid that go to the brain. When this area is misaligned, the brain is not supplied with enough oxygen, nutrients, and cerebrospinal fluid, causing headaches. In addition, the nerves coming from the 1-2 vertebrae are compressed, causing pain in the top and back of the head, facial area, and occipital area.
Dr. Sung Jin-wook explains headaches caused by jaw joint disorders to a patient. Courtesy of Soongsan Dangbang Hospital
Treatment includes correcting the jaw joint and relaxing the surrounding muscles.
If you have an unexplained headache, you can check whether it is a jaw joint problem or not with the following self-tests.
The bite of your teeth is not correct.
Pain in the jaw area (cheeks, ears).
You have a clicking or scraping sound in your jaw when you open your mouth.
You can’t hold 3 fingers vertically in your mouth.
Your jaw moves in a Z-shape when you open or close your mouth.
You grind your teeth when you sleep.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you may have a TMJ problem. If you think you have a problem with your jaw joint, you should visit a healthcare provider to have it examined for structural and functional problems.
Traditional Chinese medicine treats jaw joint disorders with jaw joint adjustments, relaxation of the surrounding muscles, craniosacral therapy메이저사이트, and lifestyle modifications. First, jaw joint correction is a treatment that balances the left and right sides of the jaw joint. The discs in the jaw joint are very thin (about 2 millimeters), so they need to be treated carefully. A customized orthotic device is used to make fine adjustments to the side-to-side height of the jaw joint. Chiropractic addresses adhesions and range-of-motion restrictions in the jaw joint and prevents the surrounding muscles from straining asymmetrically.
Relieving tension in the masticatory muscles around the jaw joint can also improve headaches. It is a way to ease the movement of the jaw joint and relax the tension in the cervical spine, skull, and neck and shoulder muscles. This treatment relaxes the muscles and corrects the position of the neck and skull. Acupuncture needles, which are refined extracts of Chinese herbs, help relax the muscles that cause headaches around the jaw joint, such as the temporalis and sternocleidomastoid muscles.
Craniosacral therapy is a specialized chiropractic treatment that corrects the skull and sacrum, which corrects the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to correct the movement of the dura mater in the brain. In addition, habits such as chewing food to one side, clenching the jaw to one side, and grinding the teeth can cause structural problems in the jaw joint, so lifestyle modification is recommended to prevent recurrence.
Dr. Sung Jin-wook, head of the hospital, said, “Many people think that unexplained headaches are stress-related and take only headache medication, missing the time for treatment.” “If you suspect that the cause of your headache is a jaw joint problem through self-diagnosis, we recommend that you seek diagnosis and treatment at a hospital specializing in jaw joints as soon as possible.”