A new study by researchers at the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo confirms chronic migraine sufferers are about three times as likely to report TMJ symptoms as those with only episodic migraine.
Chronic Migraine 100% Associated with TMJ
Although this study is relatively small, it included three different study groups. First, there was the control group–32 people who had no migraines. Then there was the group of 32 with episodic migraines–defined as fewer than 15 migraine days a month. Finally, there was the group of 21 people with chronic migraine–15 or more migraine days a month.
Researchers examined all patients for TMJ symptoms. Only 54% of people without migraines had any TMJ symptoms. However, 80% of those with episodic migraine and 100% of those with chronic migraine reported TMJ symptoms.
The study not only showed that about half of all control subjects have TMJ symptoms, it showed that more severe symptoms were associated with migraines. And the powerful link showing all chronic migraineurs had TMJ is truly significant.
Does Sensitization Connect These Conditions?
So we know there is a connection between migraines and TMJ, but what is it? There are several potential explanations for why these two conditions are related. The one that researchers in this study focus on is central sensitization.
Sensitization is a mechanism being used to explain many chronic pain conditions, including TMJ, migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In this explanation, people exposed to some kind of abnormal pain develop sensitivity over time. Their bodies begin to experience non-painful sensations as pain.
There are two theories of how sensitization works. One is peripheral sensitization. In this theory, the sensitization occurs at points in the body where the pain is felt. This seems reasonable to explain a single pain condition like TMJ, but it doesn’t explain why people so often experience these pain conditions together.
In central sensitization, however, the sensitivity develops in the brain, where pain signals are received and interpreted. This explanation nicely links many different pain conditions and explains why people tend to develop multiple pain conditions. Once the brain is sensitized, it can come to look at sensations from anywhere in the body as being painful.
TMJ Treatment Should Be Part of Migraine Care
No matter the link between the two conditions, researchers strongly believe that TMJ treatment should routinely be a part of migraine care. They note that too many people with migraines aren’t getting treated for their TMJ, and that this could be undermining the effectiveness of migraine treatment.
If you suffer from migraines but aren’t happy with the results you are getting from your current treatment, maybe we can help. Many people with migraines find that their attacks decrease in frequency and severity as a result of TMJ treatment. If you would like to learn whether TMJ treatment in St. Louis can help you, please call (314) 375-5353 (Downtown St. Louis) or (314) 678-7876 (Clayton) today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Chris Hill at City Smiles of St. Louis.