Is it a Chinook Headache or a Bad Bite?

Image of a chinook over Calgary
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Trying to deal with everything that life throws our way while having a headache or a migraine is annoying. But for some, when the chinook starts to roll in, their headaches and migraines are intensified.

Unfortunately, this is how many people live their lives. They deal with constant pain and have yet to find a solution to their problem. Many rely on their daily dose of painkillers to help them get through painful days.

Of course, to find a non-medication solution for any headache pattern, we first have to look for the root cause of the problem.

Barometric changes in air pressure, a common consequence of a Chinook Wind, can contribute to the onset of “Chinook Headaches”. In fact, about half of the people evaluated in a study at the University of Calgary say they are “chinook-sensitive.”

How can you tell if you deal with chinook headaches or if your pain is coming from something else?

Why your chinook headaches might actually be caused by TMJ Disorder

Many theorize that the increase in air pressure is the culprit. Air pressure is sensed or felt in the lining of your nasal sinuses. A change in air pressure can over stimulate a very special nerve that services the nasal sinuses. It is called the Trigeminal Nerve.

The Trigeminal Nerve is also the nerve for your teeth, gums and other parts of the mouth. This Trigeminal Nerve overstimulation, caused by changes in air pressure, causes changes in the way the Trigeminal Nerve works. This can lead to the “Brain Storm” that is thought to precede the formation of a Migraine headache.

And this is why so many Calgarians have a love-hate relationship

…with the chinook winds. They’re wonderfully warm during our cold, winter months, but they can cause excruciating pain for many people.

However, it’s best not to assume that your pain is caused simply by one thing. Often there are multiple factors that contribute to any pain or headache.

In that study at the University of Calgary, doctors concluded that most headaches were caused by multiple factors – not just one.

For example, something that I often see in my practice, is that pain caused by TMJ disorder can be a cofactor in Chinook Headaches. And treating the TMJ disorder can dial down the frequency or intensity of Chinook Headaches.

Patients with TMJ disorder often suffer from excruciating headaches and migraines.  These patients come seeking the cause of their pain. Understanding how their dental malocclusion (unbalanced bite) can contribute to their head pain is important in finding non-medication solutions to their pain.

Woman in pain from chinook headaches
Many of these people also suffer from Chinook Headaches that are little different from the Migraine headaches they suffer from. A therapy for one problem can help with the other.

What is TMJ disorder or TMD?

This is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. In short, the main cause of this disorder is a misaligned bite.

The result of TMJ disorder is one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Chronic headaches and/or migraines
  • Earaches, ear ringing, eye pain
  • Toothaches, loose teeth
  • Limited opening of the mouth
  • Shoulder and neck pain
  • Jaw popping or clicking
  • Poor posture, hip pain

When the way teeth bite (mesh or fit) together is imbalanced, this causes a misalignment of the jaw. This strains the muscles and tendons of the head and neck. A common consequence of the bite imbalance can be chronic clenching and grinding of teeth. Clenching and grinding of teeth is sensed and regulated by the Trigeminal Nerve. Overstimulation of the Trigeminal Nerve from clenching and grinding as the same effect as overstimulation of the Trigeminal Nerve from the air pressure changes that take place with Chinook Headaches. Sometimes both are needed to push you over the edge that we call a Migraine Headache.

If you suffer from the pain mentioned above, I recommend that you do the following. This is for until you can come in for a TMJ diagnosis and start the gratifying road to treatment.

  • Stay away from hard, crunchy fruits, vegetables, and breads.
  • Avoid chewy foods, like gum, chewy candy, and dried fruit.
  • Limit the amount of wine you drink (some ingredients can trigger migraines).
  • Practice proper posture, and especially avoid slouching or leaning forward for extended periods.
  • Relax your muscles as much as possible and avoid clenching your teeth. The only time your teeth should touch is when you’re chewing food.


TMJ Treatment may finally relieve your headaches

While you can reduce some of your pain by limiting certain foods, you can find permanent relief when you treat the root of your pain. It’s time to consider aligning your bite.

Yes, even if your bite feels “normal.” A “normal bite” merely means you have become used to it. Having a ‘normal’ bite doesn’t exactly mean you have a ‘healthy’ bite. While you may not have pain with an imbalanced bite, your body has to accommodate the imbalance.

“You can accommodate strain in your body until you cannot.”

Dr. Jeff Scholten, Upper Cervical Chiropractor

This means that your body will not have pain until it is pushed past its ability to accommodate the stress it is under.

The slightest imbalance in your bite can tip your body to the point you suffer from “chinook headaches.”

Kicking headaches on chinook days with TMD Treatment

When you visit my Calgary dentist office, I will do a TMJ assessment to explore the underlying source of your headaches and migraines.

If it is a misaligned bite, I can help rebalance or reposition the bite through a combination of physiologic bite adjustments and orthotic treatments.

The word physiology is a medical term that means “how the body solves problems.” Your physiology is the way your body allows you to be alive and survive. This idea or viewpoint is at the core of how I practice dentistry at Dentalife.

A second phase of treatment, after the symptoms are controlled, may be orthodontics or restorative treatment like crowns, or full-mouth restorations.

Call my office if you want relief from your chronic headaches

Part of the reason some people simply “deal” with chronic headaches and migraines is because they don’t get a proper diagnosis.

Trying to deal with Chinook migraines when what you’re really dealing with is a jaw and bite issue is debilitating. It can feel like there’s no relief for you from anywhere.

Thankfully, there is.

With the headache treatments provided at my office, you will be on the road to less pain. It may take some time – this isn’t something that can be rushed – but even with some small adjustments, you can start to notice improvements.

If you deal with chronic headaches or migraines, don’t wait a moment longer. Contact my office to schedule a diagnostic exam.

The information I gather from that appointment will help me find the best possible treatment to reduce or completely end your pain.

Are you ready to find relief from your chronic headaches/migraines? If so, please schedule an appointment with my office. From testing to orthotic treatments – I’ll do all I can to reduce your pain.

Dr. Curtis Westersund – dentist Calgary, TMJ treatment provider

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