Although headaches are one of the most common and most debilitating medical conditions, headache treatment lags behind other areas of medicine, perhaps 50 years behind according to some doctors. There are problems with diagnosis, problems with treatment, and problems with side effects related to treatment. For patients, this usually means trying many different treatments before they find one that is effective for them. We offer a drug-free alternative treatment that helps many people who don’t get good results from other treatments.
If you are looking for a headache treatment that is a drug-free alternative to traditional headache treatments, please call (248) 825-8277 today for an appointment at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.
Problems with Headache Diagnosis
Headaches can’t be properly treated without a good diagnosis. Unfortunately, even diagnosing headaches can be difficult. There are few definitive tests that will distinguish headaches and recommend proper treatment. As a result, people with headaches will experience:
- Undiagnosed headaches
- Headaches misdiagnosed as the wrong type
- Headaches misdiagnosed as other conditions
- Other conditions misdiagnosed as headache
People with headaches often go undiagnosed for years. They may persevere and try to get by with home care, which is often inadequate or potentially even harmful. People often get headaches misdiagnosed as the wrong type. Migraine headache is commonly misdiagnosed as sinus headache, for example.
Many conditions are confused with headaches. One of the most common misdiagnoses is TMJ. TMJ is often misdiagnosed as headaches and vice versa. This is understandable because there are many overlaps between the two conditions, and headaches are even a common symptom of TMJ.
Problems with Headache Treatment
Headache treatment can be problematic for many reasons. The biggest reason is that headache treatments just don’t work for many people. This is especially true for migraine treatments. Most migraine sufferers have tried at least four migraine treatments (usually different kinds of drugs), but nearly 70% of them are still unsatisfied with the results of migraine treatment.
Side Effects of Headache Treatment
Because 90% or more of people who get treatment for headaches rely on medication, they often experience side effects of medication. Side effects of headache medications can include:
- Damage to kidneys and liver
- Medication overuse and other types of headaches
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Heart risks
- Mood effects
Your body has to process medications in the kidneys, liver, or both. Medications can damage these vital organs over time.
Many types of headache medications, especially opioid pain relievers, carry with them a high risk of addiction, which can be damaging.
Unfortunately, your headache treatment can actually end up causing headaches. Medication overuse headaches occur when your body becomes acclimated to medication and suffers pain when medications aren’t taken. It may even get to the point where you suffer headaches even after medications are taken.
Cognitive dysfunction is a serious side effect experienced by more than 20% of people taking the migraine prevention drug topiramate. It can also be a side effect of pain relieving medications.
Drug-Free TMJ Treatment for Headache Relief
For many people, headaches are a symptom of TMJ or can be worsened by TMJ. TMJ can cause tension headaches, migraine headaches, and even referred pain headaches.
Referred pain is when the pain is felt in a different place from where it actually occurs. Thus, pain in the teeth, jaw, or jaw muscles may be registered as headache pain.
When you treat TMJ, you relieve headache pain. People experience a reduction in the frequency and severity of headaches.
There are many potential forms of TMJ, but one of the most common is TMJ caused by an imbalance in the jaw joints and muscles. Restoring balance among these systems can resolve TMJ symptoms, including headaches.
For many people, the first stage of TMJ treatment is a form of electric massage known as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). This gentle electric current causes your muscles to twitch in ways that make them relax–they are massaging themselves. TENS might be the only treatment necessary in many cases. For example, a jaw that was dislocated but wasn’t able to work back into place might slide right back when the muscles are relaxed. And if muscle tension is the primary problem, periodic TENS treatments work wonders. These people may also benefit from physical therapy or massage therapy.
For people whose jaw imbalance depends on problems in the way teeth fit together, a bite splint is a noninvasive, reversible treatment approach. Wearing the bite splint puts the jaw in a proper position so that the muscles are fully relaxed and the joint isn’t stressed–or putting pressure on nerves like the trigeminal nerve.
If the bite splint works well, we can discuss options for restoring teeth that can give the same results as the bite splint, but without the need for the splint. Proper use of a bite splint may include alternation with an oral appliance for sleep apnea, which can help resolve sleep apnea headaches, too.
If the bite splint doesn’t resolve TMJ problems, surgery may be necessary. We want to make TMJ surgery a treatment of last resort–it has many complications and a low rate of success.
Are You Looking for a Different Headache Treatment?
If you are one of the many people who is unhappy with the results of your headache treatment, we can help. Please call (248) 825-8277 today for an appointment with headache dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.