Migraines are one of the most serious and disabling types of headaches. They’re also somewhat mysterious, because we don’t completely understand what causes them or how they work. But we do know that people with TMJ can experience more of them, and that treatment of TMJ can reduce their frequency and severity. This makes TMJ treatment a valuable adjunct or even alternative to medication-based migraine treatment.
If you would like to learn more about TMJ treatment and whether it can help in Tulsa, OK, please call (918) 528-3330 or email élan by Dr. Meghan Hodges today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at élan by Dr. Meghan Hodges.
Types of Migraines
Common migraines are categorized in two different ways, by their symptoms and by their frequency.
Migraine with Aura: This is the “classic” migraine in which a person experiences some type of sensory phenomenon as a warning before it begins. Most often, this is a visual phenomenon: colors or shapes in the field of vision, often outlining objects, which is why it’s called an aura. However, only about 30% of sufferers experience an aura before their migraine.
Migraine without Aura: In this type, people experience the pain, nausea, and dizziness associated with migraines, but they don’t experience the warning phenomenon beforehand.
Chronic Migraine: The chronic type is a classification based on the frequency of your attacks. If you experience them 15 or more times a month, you have chronic migraines.
Episodic Migraine: Episodic refers to migraines that occur from 4 to 14 times a month.
The Migraine Mechanism
In the time before the migraine, sometimes for days before, you may experience a period of altered brain chemistry, which you may notice as an unusual mood, low energy or interest, and other symptoms. This is called the prodrome.
Most migraines occur in response to some type of trigger, of which dozens are known. During the beginning of the migraine attack, the aura, if you experience it, there is a wave of changes in brain activity that passes over the brain, which makes the brain susceptible to adverse stimuli.
In response to this change in the brain, or, possibly, independent of it for those who don’t experience an aura with their migraine, the trigeminal nerve begins to send pain signals to the brain that set off another attack in the brain, the exact nature of which is not understood. It may be related to the swelling of blood vessels (the vasodilator CRGP, which expands blood vessels, is found in high levels in the brain during and after a migraine). Or the trigeminal nerve may directly stimulate the pain centers of the brain, resulting in the migraine pain.
Migraines can last 4-72 hours. For a day or more after the migraine, people may experience the postdrome, similar to a migraine hangover.
How TMJ Can Trigger Migraines
The trigeminal nerve, which obviously plays an important role in migraines, consists of three branches, one of which goes to the lower jaw, one to the upper jaw, and one to the region around the eyes. Two of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve have been specifically determined to be capable of triggering migraines, and these branches are often pressured by your chewing muscles. When you have TMJ, your chewing muscles can be overactive, causing tension headaches, and, potentially, putting pressure on the branches of the trigeminal nerves and causing migraines.
TMJ calms these muscles, which can reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines. It can even do it without drugs, and therefore without drug side effects.
If you would like to learn whether TMJ is contributing to your migraines in Tulsa, OK, please call (918) 528-3330 or email élan by Dr. Meghan Hodges today for an appointment.