Health Stories

Do you get migraines? You might be suffering from TMJ

This woman was so relieved to find the cause of her splitting headaches.
Lisa Hodgetts

Lisa Hodgetts, 38, West Kempsey, NSW

Not again, I thought as I opened my eyes. Each morning, I woke with a splitting headache. When I got out of bed, I felt so dizzy I had to lie back down again. I’d finally had enough so I decided to talk to my GP about it.

‘I’m worried there might be something seriously wrong,’ I said. After a brief inspection, he couldn’t find an explanation so I was referred to an audiologist to see if it had anything to do with 
my ears. He found nothing wrong, but the symptoms continued.

It was six months before I had 
an answer when an ear, nose and throat specialist examined my jaw.

The tempermandibular joint connects the jawbone to the skull.
The tempermandibular joint connects the jawbone to the skull.

‘You have temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ,’ he said, explaining it’s a problem with the joint that connects the jaw to the skull’s temporal bones, which are 
in front of each ear.

An x-ray showed the left side of my jaw bone had worn away and looked sharp where it 
was meant to be rounded. ‘Have you ever had problems with your jaw before?’ he asked.

I recalled a time years ago when my jaw would regularly lock during the university exam period. My GP had put it down to stress and showed me some exercises I could do to relax the muscle. But I never thought my jaw could be causing my dizziness!

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The doctor explained TMJ is common in women under 35 and can be a result of things such as grinding your teeth or stress. In my case it’s caused by 
arthritis in the jaw joint, but I’m managing the condition with specific physio exercises.

Although I still suffer sometimes, I’m pleased I finally have an answer for my strange symptom!

Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)

  • The temporomandibular joint acts like a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to the skull.
  • TMJ syndrome can cause pain 
in the jaw joint and muscles that control the jaw’s movement.
  • Causes include arthritis, clenching the jaw and grinding 
your teeth. In most cases TMJ can be alleviated with non-surgical treatments, however in severe cases surgery may be required.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 3, 2016.

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