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Can TMJ Treatment Help with NDP Headaches?

If you’ve been diagnosed with new daily persistent (NDP) headaches, you are probably frustrated. A diagnosis often points the way to successful treatment, but not so with NDP headaches, which even headache specialists admit is not well understood and not easy to treat.

It’s possible, though, that part of the problem is that some cases of NDP headache may actually be misdiagnosed TMJ headaches.

What Is NDP Headache?

NDP headaches are a new classification of headache that was only added to the International Classification of Headache Disorders in 2004, ten years after diagnostic criteria were proposed and 18 years after it was first described. It’s considered a primary headache, which means that it isn’t considered secondary to other conditions, although like migraines and tension headaches it can still be triggered by other factors.

Diagnostic criteria for NDP headache are:

  1. Headache that fulfills criteria B through D within 3 days of onset
  2. Daily headaches for three days or more
  3. Pain meeting at least two of the following criteria::
    1. Felt on both sides of the head
    2. Headache pressure that doesn’t pulsate
    3. Intensity is mild or moderate
    4. Not worsened by light physical activity (e.g. walking)
  4. Meets both of the following criteria:
    1. No more than one:
      1. Sensitivity to light
      2. Sensitivity to sound
      3. Mild nausea
    2. If present, nausea or vomiting is mild
  5. Not related to another disorder

Diagnostic criteria help doctors classify people suffering from this type of headache, but so far we haven’t been able to track down a definitive cause. Many people who develop NDP can cite something that happened before they developed the headache. This includes extracranial surgery, minor head traumas, stressful life events, and even a flu-like illness, but so far studies haven’t been done to definitively determine a cause.

Possible Links to TMJ

Why would we suspect TMJ involvement in NDP headaches? First, it’s partly just a suspicion based on our experience with TMJ headaches, which are often misdiagnosed. It is easy to believe that a doctor might misdiagnose a TMJ headache as an NDP headache. Since the true cause was not diagnosed, the TMJ headache wouldn’t respond to treatment, which would partly account for why headache specialists think this headache is so hard to treat.

And then there’s the mixture between migraine and tension headache characteristics. Since TMJ can cause both migraines and tension headaches, it makes sense that it might be responsible for triggering headaches that are a little of each.

Like NDP headaches, TMJ can be unilateral (one side) or bilateral (both sides).

There are probably many people who have NDP without TMJ involvement, but it’s likely that many people diagnosed with NDP may have TMJ as well.

If You’ve Been Diagnosed with NDP Headache

Diagnosing NDP headaches has to include eliminating alternate explanations for your headache. This should also include TMJ testing. If you weren’t tested for TMJ, you owe it to yourself to get tested for TMJ. If TMJ is involved in your headache, we have successful treatment options that can help.

To schedule a consultation with a Savannah TMJ dentist, please contact us by email, or call us at (912) 234-8282 today.

By |April 26th, 2016|Headaches, TMJ|