Difference between Headaches & Migraines and their Relation to TMJ

Headaches & migraines affect millions of people around the globe. These health conditions can be completely debilitating. Many people who experience intense headaches may describe the experience as a migraine. However, these intense headaches may not be migraines at all. Understanding which term to use and what’s causing your pain are the first steps on the path to recovery.

The experts at Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry help many patients suffering from headaches & migraines. We are proficient at helping you get to the root of the problem and resolving the issue to relieve your pain.

Types of Headaches & Migraines

There are several types of headaches & migraines. It is beneficial to recognize the differences between them in order to fully understand the condition. Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. Most people experience this type of headache at one point or another. Other types of headaches include cluster headaches and chronic headaches. These occur much less often than headaches of the tension variety.

A migraine headache occurs much less frequently than a tension headache. They are also quite different as far as pain and symptoms go. Just like with headaches, there are different types of migraines. For example, a migraine headache may or may not be accompanied by an aura. This aura is neurological and causes a vision change prior to the onset of the migraine. Some migraines also present with other vision changes, numbness, and difficulty speaking, or tingling.

Many people mistake severe headaches for migraines. However, in order to classify a migraine as such, specific criteria need to be met. With both tension headaches & migraines intensity can vary from mild, to moderate, to severe. The pain is isolated to one side of your head or both sides in either case. The primary difference is that a migraine presents with a throbbing feeling. It’s also common for physical exertion to worsen symptoms. Tension headache pain is steadier and generally feels like pressure or tightness. The only true similarity is that they both result in pain.

Symptoms and Causes of Headaches & Migraines

Headaches can occur suddenly or gradually. Tension headaches are often accompanied by muscle tenderness in the head, neck, and shoulders. Headaches don’t tend to worsen with physical exertion and there are no unusual sensitivities. Migraines on the other hand are often accompanied by sensitivity to sound, light, and smell, as well as nausea and even vomiting.

Migraines are believed to be caused by blood flow changes in specific areas of the brain. Alterations to blood vessels in these areas and chemical reactions lead to irritation and swelling. These changes are also believed to cause the throbbing sensation that accompanies migraines. The cause of tension headaches is uncertain. It was once thought that they were caused by chronic muscle tension; however it seems that the cause is actually much more complex.

Headaches & migraines often have different triggers. Tension headaches are typically thought to be stress related, in addition to being caused by tension in the neck and scalp. Migraines are more commonly caused by very specific triggers such as dairy, red wine, chocolate, citrus, and peanut butter. They can also be caused by hormonal shifts, changes in weather, specific smells, a lack of sleep, and a number of other things.

Other health conditions known to cause headaches and migraines include TMJ. The only real way to prevent headaches & migraines from occurring is to treat the underlying cause. Thankfully, state of the art TMJ treatments are helping thousands of patients find relief.

Diagnosing Headaches & Migraines

Unfortunately there are no tests designed to diagnose migraine headaches. The best thing your doctor can do is use other tests to exclude conditions that may be triggering your migraines. These tests often include blood tests, CAT scans, or MRIs. In extreme cases your doctor may recommend a spinal tap. Experienced physicians should be able to advise which type of headache you have. Often times, sinus headaches are very similar to migraines.

It’s important to gather as much information about your headache or migraine as possible to get the most accurate diagnosis. Monitor the duration of your headache as well as what you were doing leading up to when it began. Be as detailed as possible because even the smallest trigger can have painful consequences. Migraine headaches can last anywhere from a few hours to days and tension headaches can last from thirty minutes to a week. Keeping a headache diary will help you learn how to prevent your headaches.

If you find that your headaches are caused by activities such as chewing gum or clenching your jaw then it’s very possible TMJ may be the cause of your pain. Consult with your doctor and a dentist qualified to treat TMJ. If your headaches are preventable then there’s no reason to continue suffering.

Call the Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry at (301) 530-3600 for more information on treating TMJ associated with headaches & migraines.