One of the biggest problems with getting treatment for your headaches is figuring out what caused them. Headaches is one of the most common symptoms. It’s linked to dehydration, overexertion, poor sleep, flu, as well as many more conditions. But if you don’t know what caused your headache, how can you know how to treat it?
One of the things you can do is track the timing of headaches. This won’t always give you the answer, but it can often provide you with important information. There are many headache tracker apps available for your phone. Although they’re mostly targeted to migraine sufferers, they can also help track down the causes of other headaches. There are many timing clues that can link your headache to TMJ.
Headache after Jaw Activity
Does heavy jaw activity trigger your headaches? You might notice that headaches occur after you do a lot of talking, eat a meal that’s hard to chew, or chew gum.
The jaw muscles are the largest muscles in the head. When they’re overworked, they can cause tension throughout the head and neck region, leading to tension headaches. TMJ makes your bite inefficient, so you’re more likely to stress jaw muscles when working your jaw. As a result, you may experience headaches from your temples, around your nose (easy to confuse with sinus headaches), or at the back of your head.
Stress can cause headaches, but it doesn’t cause them directly. Instead, there’s usually a mediating factor. Some people drink alcohol to try to control stress. Others use caffeine to help them energize to deal with stressful circumstances. Others have sleep problems that cause headaches.
Waking with headaches can be the result of many different causes. TMJ is a common cause. Many people clench and grind their teeth at night, which causes muscle tension while you sleep. You may notice jaw pain, neck pain, or sore teeth sometimes, too.
Another issue could be sleep apnea. Repeated oxygen deprivation and waking at night can make you wake up with a headache. These issues aren’t unrelated–sometimes teeth clenching is a mechanism your body uses to try to keep the airway open at night. The pain might seem like a sinus headache or a hangover.
How Do You Know?
These clues are important, but they won’t tell you the whole story. Instead, you should consider whether you have other TMJ symptoms, such as:
- Jaw popping and clicking
- Teeth wear
- Jaw pain
- Jaw lock
If you have these symptoms, you should talk to a physiologic dentist. On the other hand, if morning headaches are your problem, and you experience symptoms like:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Memory problems
- Low interest
- Depression and other mood disorders
You may have sleep apnea, and should talk to your doctor about it.