Headache is one of the most common symptoms that people complain about to their doctors. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest to diagnose and treat. There are many potential causes for headaches, and doctors may have difficulty tracking down the true cause of your headache.

To be fair, doctors have to focus first on potentially deadly causes of headaches like subarachnoid hemorrhage or brain cancers. But after that, doctors may just not be asking the right questions to identify the cause of your headaches. Here are a couple of common headache causes your doctor might miss, along with the key questions you can ask to find out whether they might be the cause of your headache.

Headaches and sleep apnea

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is hard for doctors to diagnose. There are basically three main reasons why this is. First, the condition occurs while you’re sleeping, not while you’re in the doctor’s office. Second, it’s a condition that’s been traditionally neglected or dismissed. Finally, you might not be reporting all the key symptoms to your doctor.

Key Questions to Ask:

Are you a snorer? If you are, then you’re likely to have sleep apnea. The most common form of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, is strongly associated with snoring.

Do you feel tired during the day? Daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of sleep apnea. If you experience daytime sleepiness as well as headaches, you’re likely to have sleep apnea.

Do you have headaches in the morning? Headaches on awakening are la textbook marker for sleep apnea.


Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or, sometimes, TMD) is a jaw condition that doctors often don’t think about as a headache cause. But this jaw problem is commonly associated with headaches and because it goes so long undiagnosed, people with it often get unsuccessful or limited success treatments directed at the headaches alone.

Key Questions to Ask:

Do you have jaw pain? Not everyone with TMJ headaches experiences jaw pain, but it’s a fairly reliable warning sign. Note that jaw pain could also be experienced or described as facial pain.

Do you have tinnitus? Ringing in the ear, which might also be experienced as roaring, grinding or even music or conversation, has been associated with TMJ headaches.

Have you had tooth problems? TMJ is commonly associated with a bad bite. This may be developmental, although it’s often related to tooth trauma or dental restorations that aren’t placed properly.

Other Tips to Help Get Diagnosed

If the above questions don’t help you track down the cause of your headaches, it might be time to pull out some other approaches to narrow down the cause of your headaches. Some good tips include:

  • Keep a headache diary
  • Make sure you’ve reported all symptoms to your doctor
  • Don’t forget to mention all medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements.
  • Consider non-medical treatments like massage or yoga

Following these tips and keeping in close contact with your doctor should help you figure out the cause of your headaches.

If you suspect that either sleep apnea or TMJ is to blame for your headaches in Columbus, we can help. Please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment with TMJ and sleep dentist Dr. Mike Firouzian at Firouzian Dentistry.