Have you been suffering from headaches or neck aches for years? Have you tried everything to get to the root of the problem but keep coming up empty?
The connection between headaches and dental problems may not be an obvious one but many studies have shown that chronic clenching of the jaw is a common theme when it comes to the causes of headaches and neck pain. In fact, the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain estimates 80% of headaches are caused by muscle tension, which often originates in the jaw.
Tension headaches occur when a muscle, ligament, or tendon that attaches to the skull or neck is either torn or damaged. These tears or soft tissue legions can trigger a pain response in your nervous system causing disturbances to vision, balance, sinuses, and digestion. Typically tension headaches feel like a dull throbbing inside your head.
If you habitually grind or clench your teeth the muscles in your jaw tighten with the muscles in your neck. This build-up of tension in the muscles will prevent them from relaxing and the soft tissue legions are not given an opportunity to heal.
Teeth grinding or TMJ disorder can play a huge factor in why you are getting tension headaches or neck pain.
The clenching and grinding of teeth are common problems dentists notice when they peer into their patients’ mouths. However, as common as the problem is, so too are the 3 top reasons why it happens, which often happens unconsciously.
Factor one - Disturbed sleep patterns. Having consistent good nights of rest is central to your overall health and wellbeing. If your airways are obstructed while you sleep this will interfere with your body’s ability to rest and recuperate.
Factor two –Stress. Ah, the culprit for many health problems, and one that cannot be easily ignored. Stress can come from different angles however, such as social stress, family and work stress, nutritional stress, postural and physical stress, just to name a few.
Factor three – Pain. Pain found anywhere in the body can cause clenching of the jaw. As mentioned above, this can cause soft tissue legions resulting in headaches or neck aches.
Assessments & Treatments
If you feel you are suffering from headaches caused by involuntary clenching or grinding of the jaws then take a closer look at the following areas. Some areas you will be able to change yourself, others you may need treatment and advice from a health professional.
First, look at how you sleep. Assess how best you can sleep to support your neck and jaw to relieve any pressure and to assist clear airways through the night. Splints or night guards can be a huge help in keeping your airways open so you can have a restful nights sleep.
Next, notice how your teeth and jaw joints move. Do your and jaw joints click and pop when you open and shut them? Do you feel any discomfort in moving the joint? This can tell you a lot about how your jaw joint is functioning and how well your upper and lower teeth fit together. Your dentists can give you a full assessment and treatment plan.
Next, look at postural stress. Postural stressors can prevent soft tissue legions from healing. Ask relevant healthcare practitioners for advice to better your sleeping posture, walking and working posture, and foot mechanics. Having good posture allows joints to function as they should, relieving pressure from joints and supporting healthy movement.
Lastly, take an honest look at your nutrition and exercise. It is important that you create an environment in your body that is conducive to healing, restoring energy, and reducing inflammation. Choosing sustainable exercises and a diet balanced in proteins, correct fats and carbohydrates will help you achieve this.
While there are a range of reasons for headaches and neck pain, addressing them does not need to be a huge ordeal. Taking an honest appraisal of your lifestyle habits, general health, diet, and sleeping postures may lead you to the simple fix you have been searching for to stop annoying headaches interrupting your day.