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  7. Relationship Between TMJ Disorders and Headaches


Did you know that headaches are a common symptom for patients with TMD? According to the International Headache Society, TMD is classified as a secondary headache that results from disorders of the TMJ or related tissues. 

When you come in for your evaluation, your PT will ask you many questions to gather a thorough history to identify the possible source of your orofacial pain and provide a screen for other causative or contributing factors. Be sure to let your PT know when your headache occurs, how often, where it hurts, the duration, etc. For example, a patient may report they experience a headache in the temporal region (temples) for about an hour after eating. Keeping a log of your symptoms will help us determine the root cause of your headaches. 

Next, your physical therapist will perform a thorough exam to determine where your headache is coming from in order to correctly target treatment. Sensitive areas in jaw muscles and the neck region can refer pain that causes headaches. Additionally, cervical (neck) joint problems can produce a headache. It is important to note that you may have a primary headache (i.e., migraine, cluster, tension), which warrants referral to and collaboration with another healthcare professional, such as a neurologist or orofacial pain specialist, to determine the appropriate plan of care. 

(Harrison et al., 2014)


  1. Gauer, R. L., & Semidey, M. J. (2015, March 15). Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. American Family Physician. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0315/p378.html#afp20150315p378-f1
  2. Harrison, A. L., Thorp, J. N., & Ritzline, P. D. (2014). A proposed diagnostic classification of patients with temporomandibular disorders: Implications for physical therapists. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 44(3), 182–197. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2014.4847

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