Tension headaches are common and may occur when a person clenches their jaw. People may clench their jaw more often if they have bruxism, which is when a person unconsciously clenches or grinds their teeth.
This article discusses the link between jaw clenching and headaches. It also outlines the symptoms, causes, and treatment of tension headaches in relation to bruxism.
To discover more evidence-based information and resources for headache and migraine, visit our dedicated hub.
A number of factors may play a role in tension headaches,
Bruxism may also play a role in the development of tension headaches.
The pain may feel like something is applying constant pressure to the:
- front of the face
People most commonly experience pain that occurs on both sides of the head.
There are a number of factors that may play a role in the development of bruxism. These include psychological factors,
Other factors may include:
- consuming caffeine and alcohol
- taking certain medications for treating:
Tension headaches may be an effect or symptom of bruxism.
Other possible causes of tension headaches
- mental or emotional conflict
- skipping meals
- not enough sleep
- sleep apnea
According to the American Migraine Foundation, when diagnosing a tension headache a doctor may carry out the following steps:
- review the person’s medical history and their family medical history
- evaluate the person’s specific symptoms
- conduct a physical examination
When evaluating a person’s symptoms a doctor
They may also ask them about their sleeping patterns and the amount of sleep they have been getting.
Additionally, a healthcare professional may ask a person about their stress levels.
A doctor would also need to determine whether there are any serious underlying causes of the tension headaches. This is because these headaches can share symptoms with other, more serious conditions, such as structural brain lesions.
A person may need to speak with a dentist if they suspect that they are experiencing tension headaches as a result of bruxism. A dentist may use diagnostic tests including:
- reviewing a person’s medical history
- conducting a dental examination
- ordering a sleep study, in which a healthcare professional monitors a person in their sleep to help detect sleep disorders and sleep bruxism
- taking X-rays of the jaw and teeth
If a person’s tension headache is not associated with another disorder, a doctor may suggest using certain medications to treat it. For example, a person may treat headache pain with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, including:
A person may also make use of specific therapies to treat chronic tension headaches. These include:
- Biofeedback therapy: This is a type of therapy in which people learn
to controlbodily processes that are normally involuntary including muscle activity like jaw clenching.
- Relaxation training: This is a practice that helps
activatethe body’s relaxation response. This can help a person to achieve:
- Meditation: This refers to a variety of practices that focus on
integrating the mind and body. Meditation may help calm the mind and enhance overall well-being. Some types of meditation involve maintaining a mental focus on a particular sensation, while others involve maintaining attention or awareness on the present moment.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy that helps adjust a person’s behavior by changing thinking patterns. CBT focuses on exploring different approaches to specific challenges.
If a person has infrequent tension headaches, they may ease their symptoms at home by having a hot shower or applying moist heat to the back of their neck. Other approaches that may ease symptoms include:
- physical therapy
- gentle neck exercises
A person may also need to treat bruxism, to help them stop clenching their jaw.
If a person has bruxism that does not occur due to another condition, treatment
- prevent the progression of tooth wearing and damage
- reduce teeth grinding sounds
- improve muscle discomfort
Treatments for sleep bruxism include:
- Improving sleep hygiene: This includes ensuring a person follows certain guidance in relation to their approach to sleep. Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Splint therapy: During splint therapy, a person wears an occlusal splint, which is similar to a mouth guard, that covers their teeth when they go to sleep. This approach is often the first-line strategy for preventing dental grinding noise and tooth wear in sleep bruxism.
A person may also wish to try some lifestyle changes to help improve their bruxism symptoms. These
If a person has ongoing symptoms of tension headaches they should speak with a doctor, particularly if the symptoms interfere with their daily life.
It is also important that a person speaks with a doctor because these symptoms are often similar to those associated with more serious conditions, such as structural brain lesions.
It is particularly important that a person visits a doctor if they develop new or different headache symptoms. They should also visit a doctor if they have progressive headaches that increase in frequency.
Bruxism is a condition that causes a person to clench their jaw or grind their teeth. When a person clenches their jaw, it may cause tension headaches.
Other causes of tension headaches include stress, depression, and anxiety.
A person may treat the symptoms of tension headaches with OTC pain relievers. Other possible treatments for tension headaches include biofeedback therapy, relaxation training, meditation, and CBT.
People may also wish to treat their bruxism to avoid developing jaw clenching headaches. Treatment for bruxism includes improving sleep hygiene and splint therapy.
A person should speak with a doctor for further information and advice about tension headaches and bruxism.