If you are one of the many people who suffer from headaches that haven’t responded to traditional treatments or medicines if you have all but given up on trying to find the solution you are not alone.
Alicia had suffered from headaches, particularly migraines for as long as she could remember. “My son is 12, and all he’s ever known is that mom is going to have a headache, sometimes lasting up to 15 days,” says Alicia.
“If they make a drug and market it as a headache treatment, I have probably tried it,” says Alicia. “I was desperate for relief and even tried Botox treatments every 6 months, having the nerves in my neck blocked by radiofrequency, and took antipsychotic medications but nothing worked.”
Alicia’s headaches were not only affecting her but her family as well. “I missed school events, athletic events and family get-togethers because of the constant headaches. I would lose patience and get angry faster and my husband had to pick up the slack. I knew I needed to find an answer soon.”
After exhausting what seemed like all of her options, Alicia came across an article about headaches being linked to TMJ and Sleep Apnea. It mentioned visiting a dentist trained to treat these disorders.
Alicia’s headaches were a sign of a much bigger problem. She is one of the 18 million Americans with sleep apnea, a chronic condition in which the airway collapses during sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of these patients go undiagnosed. The pauses in breathing can last from 10 seconds to a minute or longer and can increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, depression, anxiety and teeth grinding . If you can’t breathe in deeply or frequently enough, you cannot get a sufficient amount of oxygen. Nor can you exhale all the carbon dioxide you’re supposed to. This is why many patients with sleep apnea wake up with headaches that may last into the afternoon.
Also contributing to her headaches was a condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a problem involving the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscles. Clenching or grinding which can be a result of many factors including stress, sleep apnea, and misalignment of your teeth, causes constant strain on the muscles in the head and neck and puts pressure on the TMJ causing pain.
Treatment options for TMD include wearing an orthotic (appliance) for a certain period of time to stabilize the jaw and place the bite in the most relaxed position possible for the muscles, joints, and nerves. This allows your TMJ to move into proper position relaxing your muscles, relieving pressure and eliminating painful symptoms.
Treatment options for sleep apnea include CPAP, surgery or wearing an FDA and American Academy of Sleep Medicine approved oral appliance. The appliance works by holding the airway open during sleep preventing both snoring and sleep apnea.
Since treatment for sleep apnea and TMD, Alicia has completely eliminated all of her headache medications. “Now I sleep better and feel better and I’m not missing out on family events,” says Alicia.
“I can’t stress enough, that if you’ve tried everything else for headache relief and nothing works you really should consider being screened by a trained dentist for TMJ and sleep apnea. What do you have to lose?” says Alicia.