What’s Causing My Headache?: Part 5. TMJ Headache Relief

Many patients that seek headache and migraine relief do not realize they suffer from Temperomandibular joint aka TMJ headaches. We receive many referrals from Long Beach dentists for collaborative work with TMJ and TMD.

Didn’t your parents always tell you to chew your food?

The TMJ is a vital part of living as it helps us chew our food and therefore is is surrounded with dense bundles of muscle fibers to aid in this complex movement. If these muscles become imbalanced they can develop trigger points.  These trigger points can send headache signals to the brain.


Artwork by Dr. Day

The interconnected webbing of muscles

TMJ-musclesThe TMJ muscles are interconnected with the muscles of the skull, upper cervical joints, and even the muscles of the throat.  It is similar to a spider webbing. If any of the muscles are asked to do more than they are capable they will pull on other parts of the webbing.  A change in the tension in one end of the web effects the whole surface!  That means that TMJ imbalance can lead to misalignment of the cervical spine or cranium as well.

How To Know If You Have TMJ Imbalance

  1. Take a break from this article and observe yourself in the mirror or take a selfie of yourself. Notice if one side of your jaw looks like it protrudes more than the other.
  2. Now open your jaw slowly in the mirror.  Watch the bottom set of teeth and see if there is any “hitch” in the motion of opening and closing the jaw. Does your jaw shift from one side to the other as you open it?

These tests are in no way teaching you to diagnose your own TMJ, if you have a serious issue please consult the proper care. These are only given to help you see that the cause of your headache can stem from from many interconnected areas of your jaw.

What Type Of Treatment Can Help TMJ?


Consult your dentist to rule out any issues of alignment.  Some solutions are dental orthotics, bite guards, imaging, etc. We work in partnership with your dentist after you have been analyzed.


Adjustments to the upper neck and mobilization of the TMJ joint can have profound effects on the balance of the interconnected webbing of the jaw, neck and cranial muscles and nerve signals.
Additional Reading: What is Causing my Headache?: Part 1. Spinal Joint Alignment

Soft Tissue therapy/ Myofascial therapy:

Soft-Tissue-therapyApproaches such as MRT, PNF (Prioprioceptive Neuromuscular Re-education), Trigger Point release, Percussion therapy, Graston, Active Release Technique, can have profound effects on the muscular and fascial component of TMJ leading to headaches.


Additional Reading: What’s Causing my Headache: Part 2. Muscle Referral Patterns


acupuncture tmj

Acupuncture needling can have an immense therapeutic effect for releasing muscle tension in the muscles of the TMJ and neck. Find an acupuncturists who is also a specialist in Chinese medicine and see for yourself how acupuncture can help reduce your headaches and migraines.


Easy stretches to help relieve your tmj headache

  1. Tongue To Roof: Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. While keeping the tongue pressed open your jaw slowly.  Try to get the jaw open as wide as possible.  This will stretch the muscles of the TMJ.  A slightly strong stretch can happen if you jut the jaw as well.
  2. The Home Alone: Remember the move home alone?  Place your palms right above the horizontal bone above your jaw and then press lightly upward. While creating tension in the muscles gently you open your jaw.  This is a great stretch to release the facia that interconnects the fascia of the masseter and temporalis muscle.

Read the full series: What’s Causing My Headache:

Part 1. Spinal Joint Alignment
Part 2. Muscle Referral Patterns
Part 3. A Functional Medicine Approach
Part 4. Posture A Headache Cure
Part 5. TMJ Headache Relief
Part 6. Food Sensitivities – Coming Soon

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