Many don’t understand just how debilitating migraines can be. The days, weeks, months lost due to locking yourself up in isolation, in dark, quiet surroundings. But why do we do this…?
When your trigeminal nerve, the main nerve from your face to your brain, is sensitized, the brain becomes sensitive to stimulation. Our arousal rates rise, and we often also have problems sleeping.
Part of this nerve also has influence of the neck. The result can be stiffness and discomfort in the neck.
For many, they’ll search endlessly for ways to free their neck. Stretching, massage, physiotherapy, Chiropractic and self-massaging devices such as spikey balls and rollers are just some of the ways I see people attempt to resolve their problem. But the result is often further stimulation and irritation to the system leading to progressive wind up of the region.
Instead, a thorough assessment often reveals irritation to the trigeminal system. This is most often found from dysfunction of the jaw, a region poorly understood by most practitioners.
When the jaw becomes dysfunctional changes in movement often create irritation in the trigeminal system. This is amplified if things such as sleep deprivation occur at the same time. Likewise, we see having your mouth open for prolonged periods of time or orthodontics can further drive input into the system further altering the function of the neck.
Many migraine sufferers we see comment that their migraines are preceded by neck stiffness or pain. As such, they logically associate the two together. But in reality, the neck is really tightening up is response to an increase in stimulation from the trigeminal system.
For some sufferers, neck dysfunction is actually the driving force of stimulation. The changes in afferent input to the sensory system create a neurological shift that results in similar changes to that seen with jaw (TMJ) dysfunction.
In this situation, carefully targeted neck therapy can help reduce the sensory dysfunction and improve function resulting in improved outcomes for migraine.
Identifying the cause and effect:
Identifying the cause of dysfunction really needs a thorough assessment of all the factors involved in neck and jaw function by someone highly skilled in the neurological and biomechanical functions associated.
That said, there are some simple ways of working out if neck dysfunction is secondary to jaw (TMJ) dysfunction.
- Measure how much rotation you have in your neck from side to side. Place an icy pole stick between your teeth and gently bite down. Does the movement in your neck improve or the stiffness decrease?
- Roll a tissue or a piece of paper towel so it forms a point. Gently scrape it along your cheeks and forehead. Does it feel the same on both sides of your face or is one side more sensitive than the other? Now bite down on the icy pole stick again. Does the sensation change?
- Lay on your back and have someone check how flexible your hips are by moving them out one at a time. Are you equally as flexible on your right and left side? Bite down on the icy pole stick again. Does it change the flexibility?
What does this mean?
If any of the tests changed in any way with the icy pole stick between your teeth, there’s a good chance you jaw (TMJ) might be the primary problem.
A thorough investigation by a practitioner highly skilled in the neurological and biomechanical changes associated with neck and jaw (TMJ) function might help unlock a hidden cause to your migraines.
Migraines can be debilitating, but we see so many people who have needlessly suffered for years because simple issues weren’t corrected before they were able to progress to bigger problems.
If you’re uncertain whether our highly trained migraine and headache team might be able to help you, give us a call on 9318 7758 and we’ll organize a time to have a chat over the phone to see if you qualify for help. Otherwise, download my free ebook “The ultimate nutrient guide for Migraine Sufferers” where I cover the trigeminovascular system in detail and talk about some key substances you can use to help wind down the dysfunction.