Recently a patient came to me complaining of severe migraines associated with vomiting and nausea early in the morning and frequent episodes of migraine all day long for the last 10 years.  The symptoms are made worse when chewing gum and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) is associated with the pain.

My impression in this case was ‘Text Neck’ causing cervicogenic headache (neck-headaches). I guided my client through my treatment plan that would entail a referral to a neurologist if symptoms persisted. From this case I reciprocated that jaw pain is usual a consequence of  neck pain that then on the other hand causes severe headaches/migraines. Accordingly provocation of symptoms during chewing meant that the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)- joint at the jaw  is responsible for migraines just as well as the neck.

How Does It Happen?

There is a strong correlation between posture dysfunction of the neck (cervical spine) and jaw joint (TMJ) by virtue of muscle coupling force mechanism around the neck and jaw area.

A dysfunctional cervical spine resulting from sustained poor posture (text neck for example) can cause jaw joint pain. How?! This dysfunction in the neck causes tension in the front belly of a muscle (digastric) that connects from the mandible (jaw bone) to a horseshoe-shaped  bone (hyoid bone) situated in the front midline of the neck.

This attachment means that when the head is excessively bent forward the digastrics will exert a backward force on the jaw bone. With prolonged forward-bend at the neck due to sustained poor postures, the jaw bone joint attachment (mandible condyle) will be pushed back resulting to jaw pain, jaw jerking on closing mouth, swelling, increased muscle tension around the jaw muscles and other places in the skull.

Here’s how it happens: Your jaw muscles tighten (as a result of tension in your neck) when you grind or clench your teeth- or do things such as chewing gum. It provokes pain from your jaw then travels to other places in the skull, causing headaches or, in severe cases, migraines.

What You Feel When You Have Migraines Caused By Your Neck & Jaw

Migraines (Neck-Headaches) early in the morning and mild to severe episodes during the day.

Nausea and vomiting in severe cases.

Restrictions/Limited range of motion in neck movements.

Migraines are made worse with chewing.

Jaw jerking when closing mouth with ‘clicking’ noise in the jaw.

Jaw and facial pain.

Tight neck, facial or jaw muscles.

 Assessment

As with all areas of physiotherapy a thorough history is taken. Assessment will include:

  • For swelling, tenderness, muscle tension or hypermobility of the jaw joint.
  • For posture, range and quality of movement of the jaw and neck.
  • Deviation or deflection of jaw and signs of grinding and clenching teeth during sleep.
  • Rule out other clinical causes of headaches, neck pain and jaw pain.

Physical Therapy
Treatment of migraines associated with this condition will be based on findings on assessment  by an experienced and trained physical therapist who would include the following based on the findings:

  • Intra-oral myofascial (muscle and its covering) release.
  • Facial muscle release.
  • Neck, shoulder and back myofascial release.
  • Therapeutic exercise rehabilitation programme.
  • Adjustment of temporomandibular joint (jaw bone).
  • Atlanto-occipital joint thrust manipulation and upper cervical spine mobilization.

Remember to consult your doctor, physical therapist or dentist to find out the real cause of your migraines.

Written by:
Moses Katasi
Physical Therapist
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre


Experiencing Jaw Pain & Headache Whenever You Chew Or Clench Your Teeth?
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