Are TMJ & hereditary migraine mutually exclusive?

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New Member

Date Joined Mar 2012
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/2/2012 1:10 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi all

I posted here recently when going through a rebound migraine from Zomig and really appreciated all your support.

I've recently seen a neurologist as suggested, but was a bit depressed by his diagnosis. Since my maternal grandfather, mother & niece - I have no kids of my own - all suffer(ed) from regular headaches and/or migraines he said that my migraines are genetic and that this means there is no cure, so I should be looking at prophylactic drugs. I've tried beta blockers (at least 15 years ago) with no luck and couldn't tolerate amitriptyline or nortriptyline as they made me incapable of working. So he's suggested HRT initially (I'm peri-menopausal at 46) and if that doesn't work then a low dose of epilepsy drugs.

I'd heard about TMJ and asked him about this, but he was pretty dismissive, effectively saying that teeth clenching (which I do) is a symptom not a cause and obviously not wanting to it further.

Since then I've had a couple of sessions of Bowen Treatment with a very skilled therapist who has helped several members of my family with other complaints. The week before my first treatment I had 5 migraines/headaches (requiring either aspirin or zomig) and a similar number the following week. In the first session she told me my jaw was very out of alignment and in the second one she treated the condiloid (sp?) joint of the TMJ among other things. That was 8 days ago and other than one migraine triggered by the scent of the lilies that someone had kindly bought me (!) my head has been clear!

She recommended I see Dr Richard Casson in London about TMJ. I've already spoken to him and on the basis of our conversation he'd be interested to see me. I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow and was planning to ask her to refer me to him.

BUT - I continued my research on here, only to find the clearly very knowledgeable GIZMOGIRL apparently adamant that migraines are EITHER hereditary OR TMJ induced (if I've understood correctly). And if hereditary there's no option but to go thru all the available drug treatments to find the best one!

So now I'm wondering if I'm barking up the wrong tree?! Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Instinctively I hate the idea of taking drugs every day if there is some way to address the underlying cause. I know I clench my teeth; my neck & shoulders get very stiff, my jaw pops when I open my mouth very wide... and yet I have a genetic disposition to migraines!

Thanks for reading - I'd welcome your thoughts!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2024
   Posted 5/2/2012 5:16 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello hellzbellz
I have been suffering with continous severe headaches for twelve years now. I have done all treatments available, done all the meds and seen several specialists.
I would suggest still seeing a TMJ specialist just to rule out a tmj disorder to make sure. I was disagnosed with such but my headaches have continued. Bowen treatment was also a tx i tried but no success.
Also I would suggest seeing a neurologist who specializes in headaches.
You mention London: Ontario?
I don't know how long you have been suffering with migraines but I would keep a journal, i am on my nineth journal.
Hope to hear back from you.
Take care

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2011
Total Posts : 92
   Posted 5/5/2012 10:10 PM (GMT -6)   
Certainly we can be predisposed to migraines by our genetic history but in my opinion there are certainly other things that are contributing factors - hormones and stress for example can exacerbate the situation. And I would think that TMJ can contribute to the severity and frequency of migraines. It would certainly be a good idea to get some treatment for your TMJ and I hope that it helps chill out your migraines.

I also believe that there is no cure for migraines - we can learn how to manage our triggers and also there are medications that some people find help a lot in dealing with their migraine disorders.

New Member

Date Joined Mar 2012
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/6/2012 6:04 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi both - thanks for your replies

Suzanne, sorry it's taken a while to respond. In my case London = England (about 90 mins away from me).

I've been having migraines for over 20 years now (and keeping a journal on & off since 2005), but for many years alcohol was almost the only trigger. Having discovered triptans (first Imigran, more recently Zomig) about 15 years ago I have been able to manage them but in recent years I think hormonal changes, exacerbated by my determination not to let them interfere with work or personal life, have made them increasingly bad.

Over the years I've tried a wide range of treatments (Osteopathy - normal & cranial, Chiropractic, ****zu massage, trigger point therapy, Chinese herbals, etc.) with no luck. I find acupuncture (which I've been having for 8 years) helps and regular deep tissue shoulder massages are also good. FYI, I first tried Bowen a year or so ago after my family all told me how successful their treatments had been, but since their practitioner was 90 mins away I found someone local. It did nothing. However, having now seen Brenda a couple of times I'm really encouraged, not least because she identified my jaw as being a problem area without me mentioning TMJ! Following my last post I actually went 8 days without a migraine at all - 2-5 a week has been normal for me in recent years!

I think the results are so dramatic because my stress levels are also down - I've been off work for the past 2 months with post viral fatigue (which I'm sure was brought on partly because my body was under such stress from the migraines). The real test will be what happens when I go back to work (likely to be in the next couple of weeks, initially part time).

Anyway, I saw my doctor and talked about my disappointment with the neurologist (who I was referred to because he specialised in headaches) and about the TMJ. She is very interested in migraine, and thankfully was really positive about my proactive research and has agreed to refer me to Dr Casson. In relation to the question with which I started this thread, she also said (something I had thought myself) that perhaps the tendency to TMJ can be inherited!

Jewishmother, I also agree that there is no 'cure'. I read an article years ago that suggested that everyone has the potential to get migraines but that some people may only need one or two potential triggers to bring one on while others might need a dozen factors in place and will thus never experience one. This makes a lot of sense to me.

The neurologist did make one very good point: there is no other disease (his word) where we would just mitigate the attacks (eg, with triptans) rather than try to reduce their frequency, and I know that daily medications have proved very helpful for some people. I just have an inherent resistance to working through a list of strong drugs in the hope that one may work (and meanwhile suffering the side effects of those that don't) if there is any chance that something else - eg, TMJ - may be a contributing factor.

I'm going to contact Dr Casson. Will let you know what happens!

New Member

Date Joined May 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 5/7/2012 10:06 AM (GMT -6)   
I know they are hereditary. One might cause the other, both can cause the other, but at the same time, they can both be caused by a stress trigger.
Funny, I don't clench, grind, etc., but I do have TMJ problems that are hereditary on the same side of the family that has migraines.
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