Headache is one of the most common afflictions affecting mankind. There are many different types and fortunately the vast majority do not arise from serious pathology. Certain disorders of the neck can give rise to what are known as cervicogenic headaches and some jaw conditions can also manifest as headache. Cervicogenic headache should be considered as a possible diagnosis for any recurring headaches, but particularly if they are accompanied by neck discomfort, are felt in the back of the head or are provoked by sustained or awkward neck positioning eg computer use or painting a ceiling. Cervicogenic headache may still present without any of these features however. There is high level evidence to show that a combination of “hands on” therapy, exercise prescription and identification and correction of certain lifestyle factors provide effective relief from this type of headache. Other common types of headache such as migraine or tension type headache can also present in a similar manner (and indeed sometimes coexist with cervicogenic or jaw related headaches) and so these are screened for accordingly so that patients can be directed to appropriate management strategies.
Pain around the jaw and face is generally referred to as temporomandibular dysfunction, or TMD. It is sometimes accompanied by headaches, neck and upper back pain. It may arise for a number of reasons, including disorders of the TMJ (jaw joint), its surrounding muscles and/or the neck. Tooth clenching or grinding (bruxism) is a not uncommon habit adopted by some individuals, frequently when they are sleeping. Often they are not aware that this is occurring, or only became aware through a partner noticing it. This need not necessarily generate symptoms, but may certainly contribute; particularly if combined with a period of stress. Management of TMD depends upon the individual’s particular presentation as this condition is not homogenous, but may involve attention to any significant life stressors, diet modification, therapy directed toward the neck and jaw muscles and postural correction of both the neck and resting position of the jaw. Specialist dental treatment is also sometimes required and we work closely with experts in this field.