A recent article has raised the question of whether patients who experience chronic migraines should also be evaluated for temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a condition wherein the temporomandibular joint of the jaw is misaligned from the jaw itself, causing pain, clicking and popping of the jaw, and even teeth grinding (bruxism).
Though the condition can present itself alone, many patients experience migraine headaches along with their temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ dysfunction) pain. Dr. Kelley Mingus of Bend, Oregon, treats temporomandibular joint dysfunction in his clinic. He says migraine headaches often go hand in hand with TMJ dysfunction, but doctors simply aren’t sure why.
“The theory is that because both conditions are centralized in the head, there is some triggering of both conditions and they co-morbidly feed into each other that way – but a genuine link has not been established,” Mingus says.
Mingus says that many, but not all, of his patients experience both conditions, a sentiment expressed in the article, which appeared in the May 4 issue of Neurology Advisor.
The question on many people’s minds, however, is how is diagnosing one condition helpful to the diagnosis and treatment of the other?
According to Mingus, the answer is fairly straightforward.
“When you know one condition is present, you can ask if the other is there too,” he says. “Studies have actually shown that treating one component can reduce the signs and symptoms of the other.”
This means that with treatment of migraine, some TMJ dysfunction symptoms have been shown to ease up in some patients, and vice versa.
“It may not be enough to eliminate all the pain a patient experiences, but it can be a significant improvement,” he says.
Mingus says there are many treatment options and combinations of options for patients, though they often are not enough to eliminate pain entirely.
“For TMJ dysfunction treatment we recommend specific methods, or a combination of methods that can include a custom oral appliance designed to stop teeth grinding and reposition the jaw, orthodontics and even physical therapy,” Mingus says. “For migraines there are many over-the-counter and prescription medications on the market that may provide some temporary relief. Either way, if you have one, we recommend you at least get evaluated for the other. It could make a big difference in your symptoms.”