Last week in the course of a routine examination, I asked a standard question of our young woman patient: “Do you have any problem with headaches?” She replied that she does have “migraines”. So I asked a few relevant questions about the headaches, and as is often the case, this patient’s answers led me to believe that her headaches are, in fact, not migraines.
In our office, we often treat patients with head and neck pain who have been diagnosed by their doctors as having temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Oftentimes, such patients visit their doctors because they assume that the headaches from which they suffer must be migraines.
What are the typical signs and symptoms of a migraine headache? A typical migraine may last several hours to as many as three days. The pain is moderate to severe, pulsating, and usually on one side of the head. Typical associated signs of migraines include nausea and/or vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light and noise. Many migraine patients describe an “aura” just before the migraine begins. Auras are exhibited as a change in vision or hearing. Episodic migraines occur fewer than fifteen times per month with only some of these headaches being actual migraines. Such headaches occurring more than fifteen days per month with pain lasting four hours or more over a three-month period are considered to be “chronic migraines”.
Migraines may be triggered by various factors, and three out of four migraine sufferers describe specific triggers. Common examples of these triggers are physical exertion, stress, hormonal changes, weather changes, and others.
Tension headaches are the most common primary headaches. Such headaches may be misdiagnosed as migraines and vice versa.
Cluster headaches are severe attacks of pain on one side of the head lasting between fifteen minutes and three hours. These headaches may occur every other day or as often as eight times each day. Cluster headaches may be associated with facial sweating, restlessness, agitation or nasal congestion.
Other types of headaches include those brought on by exertion or coughing. They may be described as feeling like stabbing pain or other equally unpleasant feelings.
If you or someone that you know suffers from headaches, we can generally help determine whether or not migraine headache is a proper diagnosis. The determination is made based upon the patient’s history and description of the pain as well as a screening examination to rule out the possibility of TMJ-type pain. We even have a computerized evaluation system to diagnose which muscle or muscles may be causing the problem. Patients often find it hard to believe that their headaches may be related to their jaw joints or their bite. The truth is, the connection between head and neck pain and the muscles involved in moving the jaw as well as those holding the head erect are commonly the source of such pain.
If you have a question about headaches or would like additional information please feel free to contact us via our website www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com or by calling our office at 908.359.6655.