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Headaches and TMJ Pain: Elite PT Newsletter Sept. 2018

Sep21st 2018

This month I want to talk a bit about treating chronic headaches and temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ – aka the jaw).

But first I want to use this opportunity to remind you that we do free screenings for high school athletes with nagging injuries.  Sprains and strains as well as aches/pains that just don’t get better or go away with time are a perfect example of the kinds of injuries that we could help with.

If you’re son or daughter has a more severe injury then you should consult with your physician first.

I’m available most Tuesday afternoons after 1pm.  Appointments typically run about 30 minute – within that time I can give you a diagnosis and get your athlete started on the path to recovery.  Other days and times may be an option, it just depends on our availability.  Just call us at 231 421-5805 if you have questions or to schedule a free screening.


In other news….

Anniversaries this month:

Allie Hoyt PT/Athletic Trainer -1 year

Allie Hoyt DPT, ATC

Jesie Bott ATC/Massage Therapist- 5 years

Jesie Bott ATC, LMT

Jesie and Allie have been wonderful employees and we’re blessed to have them practicing at Elite Physical Therapy.

They are also a big part of the reason why we have just passed our 7th year in business.  I’m convinced we’ve done so well over the years because of our employees and their love for our patients and desire to help them achieve their recovery goals.

Headaches and TMJ Pain

These may not be the first things that pop into your head when you think of what a physical therapist would treat but we do see folks with both of these conditions.

Headaches and migraines can sometimes be the result of pain being referred from muscles in the neck up into the head.  It’s way more common than you might think.  The pictures below show the common referral patterns from our neck muscles.

Upper Trapezius

Upper Trap Trigger Points


Suboccipital Trigger Points


Sternocleidomastoid Trigger Points

Long hours staring at a computer screen or hunched over a desk can strain these muscles causing pain.  Often times the muscle itself just feels tight but it projects the pain elsewhere – in this case into your head and/or face.

Luckily its pretty easy for us to determine if this is the cause of your neck pain or headaches. And if that’s the case these muscles can be treated with a number of manual techniques such as Trigger Point Dry Needling and Graston Technique.

  •  click on Dry Needling or Graston Technique above to see video demonstrations

Many people can also have symptoms in the their jaw, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which are common with everyday activities like chewing and talking.  The pain can be local to the joint itself and/or the muscles around the joint can refer pain into the head or face.  Check out the pictures below:

Temporalis Muscle

Temporalis Trigger Points

Masseter Muscle

Masseter trigger points

TMJ symptoms can also be treated with physical therapy techniques including the manual therapy techniques I mentioned above.  It might sound crazy using needles to treat these muscles but over the past month we’ve had 2 clients that achieved complete pain relief with 1-2 treatment sessions.

There is still a bit of work to do in regards to improving the function of the jaw and neck to be sure the symptoms don’t come back but treating the muscles can be a very beneficial strategy.

If you suffer from chronic headaches or TMJ symptoms give us a call and we can discuss if physical therapy would be appropriate (231 421-5805).

That’s it for this month.  Talk to you again in October!

Joe Heiler PT
231 421-5805

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