We’ve noticed that more and more patients during lockdown are seeking our help with headaches. 

 

In the second of a 3-part blog series, we will talk you through the most common headaches we see at the clinic, how to differentiate them, and how our osteopaths and myotherapists can help you tackle them.

 

In the last blog, we looked at cervicogenic headaches. This time, we look at two more common headaches we see in the clinic; these can often be confused with on another.

 

WHAT IS A TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT (TMJ) AND TENSION HEADACHES? 
These headaches are two different types of headaches that have a lot of similarities in the way they present, their causes and also their treatment.

 

The world health organisation (WHO) has classified tension headaches as the most common, with them accounting for around 70-80% of all headaches.  

 

When it comes to tension headaches there are two types:
-Episodic, which occur on fewer than 15 days per month and often last for 30 minutes up to a week, and
-Chronic, which occur on more than 15 days per month and tend to last for hours and may be continuous (less common).

 

Tension headaches have multiple causes such as, stress/ anxiety, tiredness, dehydration, squinting, poor posture and even lack of physical activity.

 

Tension headaches are known as primary headaches as they are not caused by an underlying condition.

 

TMJ headaches are known as secondary headaches, with this being the headache is coming from a dysfunction in the jaw. When it comes to TMJ dysfunction there are many causes, but one of the most common is clenching or grinding of the teeth, with stress playing a huge role in this.

 

TMJ headaches aren’t as common as tension headaches but they can often be confused with each other. In one study it was found that headaches caused by the TMJ were misdiagnosed as tension headaches in 31% of patients.

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?  

 

Tension headaches


-Dull and persistent pressure/ tightness
-Pain starting at the back of the head or temples, eventually spreading to the front of the head creating a band around the head
-Tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles 
-Usually not severe enough to prevent you from doing everyday activities.

 

TMJ headaches


-Tight, dull, aching headache
-These can sometimes be throbbing in nature
-Usually located on one side but can be on both sides depending on the dysfunction 
-Pain is triggered by movement of the jaw and is relieved with jaw relaxation
-Tenderness is seen in the surrounding jaw and facial muscles 

 

WHO IS LIKELY TO GET THESE HEADACHES? 
The majority of people are likely to suffer from a tension type headache at some point in their lifetime, however it is more common in teenagers and adults. Women tend to suffer from them more then men.
TMJ headaches are more common in the teenage and adult population, but they can occur at any age. They are also more commonly seen in women.

Both headaches have a high link to stress and anxiety. 

 

HOW CAN WE HELP? 
Tension headaches and TMJ headaches both have good outcomes with hands-on treatment being able to reduce severity and intensity quite quickly.

 

They are both closely linked and associated with tension in similar muscles around the face and neck. A thorough case history and assessment of the patient’s neck and jaw will be undertaken by one of our Myotherapists or Osteopaths to help differentiate the type and cause of the headache.

 

Treatment will then include a range of techniques from soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation/ manipulation, stretches as well as other muscle and joint techniques. An at home program will also be prescribed to each patient ranging from exercises to mindfulness or even just taking regular work/study breaks, depending on what the underlying cause of your headache is.

 

Ultimately our goal is to help identify the cause of these headaches and help prevent them from reoccurring.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for blog number 3 coming in the next few days…  

 

 About the author

 

Osteopath Jaimi Schroen enjoys educating people about their bodies and helping them achieve their goals. Jaimi enjoys treating a broad range of injuries, with a particular interest in headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders as well as vertigo and dizziness.

 

References

Di Paolo, C., D’Urso, A., Papi, P., Di Sabato, F., Rosella, D., Pompa, G., & Polimeni, A. (2017). Temporomandibular Disorders and Headache: A Retrospective Analysis of 1198 Patients. Pain Research And Management, 2017, 1-8. doi: 10.1155/2017/3203027 

Headache disorders. (2021). Retrieved 29 August 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/headache-disorders

Tension-type Headache – Migraine & Headache Australia. (2021). Retrieved 29 August 2021, from https://headacheaustralia.org.au/headachetypes/tension-type-headache/ 

(2021). Retrieved 29 August 2021, from https://physioworks.com.au/pain-injury/headache-migraine/tmj-headache-jaw-headache/