For people who suffer from both migraines and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), the two conditions can seem so bad they’re related. Now, a new study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has discovered they might be.
An estimated 12 percent of Americans suffer from debilitating migraine headaches - headaches that in addition to causing agonizing pain can cause everything from nausea to light sensitivity and dizziness. But while for some of those migraine sufferers, the pain stops there, the NIH has revealed that those who suffer from migraines are three times more likely to suffer from another debilitating condition: TMD.
Dr. Gary Lederman is a Bellmore, New York, dentist who specializes in the treatment of TMD. He uses a technique called neuromuscular dentistry, which can adjust the position of the jaw, eliminating the temporomandibular joint disorder, as well as the pain. He has seen firsthand how closely connected TMD pain and headaches can be.
"Many patients with TMD pain list headaches as one of their main symptoms," says Lederman. "It really seems like the TMD is triggering the migraine and making it worse."
While the connection between TMDs and migraines has not yet been fully explored, dentists like Lederman say treating one problem can often be extremely beneficial to the other.
"When I treat patients for TMD in my practice, I often see a dramatic decrease in things like headaches, neck pain and back pain," he says. "Even patients who still get migraines say they’re less intense."
And the NIH data seem to agree. According to the study, up to 15 percent of migraine suffers would benefit from neuromuscular dentistry to both treat their TMD and lessen the severity and frequency of their migraine headaches.
"The findings in this study could really help a lot of people," says Lederman. "It’s pretty cool because it’s kind of a one-two punch for pain. Treat the TMD, get migraine relief in the process. It’s a win-win for the patient."