INTERSECTION OF HEADACHE AND JAW PROBLEMS
One of the main headache-producing muscles is the temporalis. It is depicted on the picture as covering a large swath of real estate on your outer head. The temporalis afflicts not only headache sufferers, but also people with temporomandibular dysfunction.
Put your hand on the side of your head. Rest your fingers on the temporalis. Clench your teeth together. As a result of your clenching, you can feel the temporalis press into your fingers.
The bulk of the temporalis lies along the side of your head. However, some the fibers of the temporalis insert on the inside of the lower jaw. Therefore, when this portion of the temporalis contracts your jaw shuts.
In addition to the temporalis, other jaw muscles also contract along with the temporalis to give you forceful closure of the jaw, which enables you to chew your food.
You clench and grind your teeth together during the night. Consequently, you wake up in the morning having given your temporalis muscle a good workout, unbeknownst to you. Could this be why your headache or jaw pain is so much worse in the morning?
INSIDE THE MOUTH YOU MAY HAVE A HEADACHE RELIEVER
Treat the temporalis on the inside of your mouth and you get relief of both headache and jaw problems. How can you do this?
Firstly, you will need to slide your finger along the inside of your mouth in the upper row of your teeth. Secondly, push up toward the roof of your mouth. You may feel a tender spot as your finger reaches the top of the mouth. This point is where the temporalis tendon attaches on the inside of your mouth. Finally, slide back and forth as you gently massage the temporalis tendon. In addition, sustained pressure for 20-30 seconds may work as well.
This technique gives you an excellent tool to relieve headaches on the side of your head. I find it does not work well for headaches on the back of the head, which is past the extent of the temporalis muscle.
WHICH FINGER DO YOU USE?
Which finger you want to use depends on the size of your finger and personal body mechanics! You may find your pinky finger on the same side of the temporalis being treated works well. If your fingers are small enough, you can use your index finger of the same of opposite side for more dexterity. Also, if your thumb is small enough, your opposite thumb place onto the upper molar may work best.
Your headache on the side of your head will fade in well under a minute if this is the treatment for you. I would not want you struggling with your finger in your mouth to no avail!
I learned this technique from Michael Karegeannes, PT/MHSc/LAT/MTC/CFC/CCTT/CMTPT, from Freedom Physical Therapy, who gave an awesome course on Temporomandibular Disorders. His technique has been quite helpful to not only my headache clients, but those who have jaw problems as well.
GET COACHING FROM YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Some headache reduction techniques are very self-explanatory. Others like the temporalis inside-the-mouth massage you will likely benefit with training and instruction from your physical therapist. This physical therapist may be a specialist in temporomandibular disorder treatment, as this condition can overlap with headaches.
You need only several visits to learn this valuable tool for your headache reduction toolbox. The point of these self-help techniques is to replace the Ibuprofen that you have depended on to relieve your headache pain. Nor would I want you to be dependent on your practitioner either.
Minimize the detrimental effects of clenching on your headache and jaw pain by wearing a mouth splint. You many wake up with less of a problem than when you allowed your jaw to clamp down so tightly.
Contact your dentist if you think this jaw clenching might be a problem for you. You may need a specialist to fabricate a splint for you.
OTHER TEMPORALIS POINTS FOR BOTH HEADACHE AND JAW PROBLEMS
Just as a reminder, some of your better headache relieving acupressure points are also on the temporalis as well. Gallbladder 8 and Gallbladder 9 points are located just above the ear. Stomach 8 is depicted in my book and earlier blogs and is found in the upper corner of the forehead.
Massage to these points in the temporalis reduces jaw clicking in some of my clients. Other methods can be used to decrease jaw clicking, but those techniques are not the focus of this article.
One client I saw in this past year had suffered from tooth and jaw pain. She had one of her back teeth removed to stop the pain. When the pain did not go away, rather than having another tooth removed, she came to us. Massage to these acupressure points, and others, within the temporalis muscle relieved her tooth pain.
EXPLORE YOUR HEADACHE-JAW CONNECTION
Frequently the jaw and headache pain coincide with each other. Several other jaw muscles may also contribute to your headache. The temporalis tendon massage is just one more tool in your toolbox for you to use as you choose. It works quickly and efficiently for many people.
Granted, you have many other headache relief methods that do not involve digging around inside your mouth! However, if you are anything like many of my clients, you would do anything to get rid of your headache!
-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer.
-Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.