Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. So common, in fact, that many people may not take them seriously. Most people don’t seek professional care. Instead, they tend to rely on over-the-counter pain medications. Because the pain intensity of tension headaches is low to moderate, these medications may work, at first. However, if a person experiences chronic tension headaches, they may find that they develop medication overuse headaches and may experience other side effects of these medications. Seeking treatment from a doctor rarely leads to good treatment options.

If you are tired of your tension headaches and the medications you’ve been taking, Detroit headache dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad may be able to help. Please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.

tension headache

What Are Tension Headaches?

Tension headaches–also called tension-type headaches–are the most common form of headaches. This type of headache is characterized by mild to moderate pain that is diffuse over a particular region, even the entire head.

The cause of tension headaches isn’t exactly clear. In the past, it was believed that muscle tension directly caused headache pain. Now it is believed that people who develop this type of headache develop pain sensitization, possibly primed by mental stress and muscle activity.

Traditional Treatment of Tension Headaches

As we mentioned, most people treat tension headaches with home care. The most common medications used for home care of tension headaches are:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
  • Analgesics (pain relievers) like acetaminophen
  • Combination medications often combine one of the above medications along with caffeine to help reduce discomfort

People may support the use of these medications with the use of ice packs, heating pads, home massage, and relaxation techniques.

Prescription medication for tension headaches includes antidepressants and muscle relaxers. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy may also be recommended for the improvement of your headache symptoms.

How TMJ Treatment Helps Tension Headaches

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) are jaw joint disorders, but they can contribute to tension headaches. Treating TMJ can help reduce the frequency and intensity of tension headaches.

When you have TMJ, your jaw joint, jaw muscles, teeth, and bones aren’t in harmony. One of the effects of this is that your jaw muscles are unable to find a comfortable resting position. This means they are constantly working to try to find that comfortable position. Your jaw muscles will pull and strain, often working against one another, and never achieve rest.

Your jaw muscles are the largest muscles in your head. Some of them attach on the side of your head behind your eyes. You can feel these muscles by working your jaw. When these muscles experience constant tension, they can become sore. The constant muscle action can lead to peripheral sensitization in the nerves of the head.

By resolving the jaw imbalance, your jaw muscles can find comfortable rest positions. Muscle soreness and sensitization will resolve, too. Short-term treatments like TENS muscle massages may be adequate. Many people benefit from the use of a bite splint, a completely reversible treatment that preserves the health of your teeth and joints.

A Team Approach

Not everyone benefits from TMJ treatment alone. Some people get their best results from a combination of approaches. TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad is happy to work with your team of doctors and other healthcare providers. If you do not yet have a team, Dr. Haddad can refer you to some good candidates in many different specialties, from podiatrists to chiropractors to pain management specialists.

To learn more about our comprehensive approach to headache treatment in Detroit, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.