Practitioners of physical health such as chiropractors (like myself), acupuncturists, massage therapists and physical therapists work with patients who have neuromusculoskeletal conditions. We commonly are able to help give pain relief.
Many times, the patient will present with one problem. However, it is not uncommon for a patient to arrive in our office with several coexisting pain conditions. I have seen multiple occasions where a patient will present with neck pain, jaw pain and migraine headaches. This article will discuss how these three conditions are related, how they can be successfully treated and some recent research addressing this topic.
First let’s look at some anatomy of the human body. Neck pain commonly comes from misalignments of the bones of the upper spine which are called the cervical vertebrae. If there is improper alignment and movement of these vertebrae it can pinch and irritate the nerves and joints of the upper spine leading to a painful neck. This is called cervical dysfunction.
The joint of the jaw is called temporomandibular joint. It is formed from two bones. The lower bone is the jaw. The upper bone is the skull. Excessive tension in the powerful muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint can cause it to move improperly. With chronic abnormal movement this joint can become painful. We call a painful jaw joint temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
Migraine headaches are excruciating headaches that usually only occur on one side of the head or the other. They are incredibly incapacitating for patients suffering from them.
A study in the research journal Acta Odontologica Scandinavica, June 2020 found that among a group of 314 teenagers with TMD, researchers observed that those with comorbid migraines were more likely to have abnormal cervical posture, trigger points in the trapezius muscles, and neck pain.
When chiropractors work with patients who have misalignments, improper movement and poor cervical neck posture it can help give relief of neck pain. Since the muscles of the jaw will also concomitantly relax, relief of jaw pain can result.
Migraine headaches are also commonly related and have association with cervical dysfunction. There is much scientific research and practical experience among physical health practitioners in providing migraine headache pain relief.
Chiropractors commonly use a technique called a chiropractic adjustment to correct cervical dysfunction. A chiropractor will use his or her hands to gently and safely restore proper alignment and movement to the dysfunctional area of the cervical spine.
By performing the chiropractic adjustment, there can be simultaneous relief of associated neck and jaw pain and migraine headaches.