Headache? It Might Be Your JAW

Headache? It Might be Your JAW

by Student Intern Alec Domjan

Ever wake up in the morning and have a bad headache? You think you must be dehydrated so you start drinking water but the headache is still there! Unfortunately, headaches can have several causes but one thing to keep in mind is no headache should be considered normal. One of the most common causes of headaches actually comes from one of the most overlooked parts of our body: the jaw. 


The jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) plays a key role in our day-to-day lives, rather that’s with eating, talking, or the occasional yawning, we are using this part of our body all the time! While it will not always cause pain, with such stress put on a joint throughout our day dysfunctions can happen. Those who stress-chew, clench their jaw, or grind their teeth while sleeping create extra tension around the TMJ. This can often lead to temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) or temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD). The former is related to the muscles around the joint that can become tight due to the constant stress on the joint while the latter relates to the joint space itself. Within the joint space is this little disc that slides as you move your jaw. This disc can become displaced and cause symptoms like lockjaw and intense pain around the joint. However, a common symptom of both TMD and TMJD is headaches!

So what can you do if you have jaw pain or headaches? One of the most effective places to start is with the resting jaw position. It’s really simple: lips together, teeth apart, and tongue on the roof of your mouth. This little exercise alone is great for people that clench during sleep or throughout their day. 

In addition to that exercise, other treatments can be utilized to decrease that headache. Soft tissue work with Active Release Technique (ART) and Dry Needling can help decrease tension of the muscles around the jaw and specific loading strategies can be used to carefully stress the jaw to decrease headaches. If you or someone you know have a headache or jaw pain it’s time to take care of it! Schedule an appointment with Indy Spine and Rehab and get back to living a pain-free lifestyle!

Research: da Costa, et al. Neck disability is associated with masticatory myofascial pain and regional muscle sensitivity. Archives of Oral Biology. 60(5). 2015. 

Brian Watters