Although many doctors place heavy emphasis on migraine medications, there are actually many drug-free approaches to reducing your migraines. One effective approach is known as progressive muscle relaxation. A new app just demonstrated its effectiveness in a recent clinical trial. 

However, for many people, it’s hard, if not impossible, to achieve relaxation because their muscle tension is linked to jaw problems. Different forms of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD) can cause muscle tension, triggering migraines and other TMJ symptoms. Treating TMJ can help you achieve relaxed jaw muscles and reduce the incidence and severity of migraines. 

young woman in bright yellow sweater massages her forehead

An Effective Relaxation App

Although there are many apps available for helping people combat migraines, few have been tested in clinical trials. However, a recent clinical trial compared the effectiveness of the oddly named RELAXaHEAD app to a standard headache diary. A group of 139 patients were randomly assigned to use either the app or journal for three months. Most of the subjects (83%) were women, and their average age was just under 42. 

Over three months, the app users reported 3 fewer headache days than those that just used a journal. People reported the ease of the app as 4.2 out of 5 and their happiness at using muscle relaxation as 4.3 out of 5. 

However, there were limitations of the app. Subjects initially had very high compliance and used the relaxation techniques 2 to 4 days a week at first. Adherence reduced over time and by the end of the study, both groups were using relaxation techniques with the same frequency. 

You Can’t Always Relax Your Jaw Muscles

While it’s possible to use relaxation techniques to try to counter some tension, for many people the worst tension is in the jaw. It’s not always possible to relax these muscles with simple techniques. Instead, sometimes jaw muscle tension is linked to jaw dysfunction, such as TMJ. 

When this is the case, jaw muscle tension occurs in part because your jaw doesn’t stay in a healthy, relaxed position. 

When this occurs, simple relaxation methods may not be effective. That’s because muscle tension increases every time you use your jaw. This isn’t just when you chew or talk–your jaw muscles play a vital role in breathing and even in supporting your head. In short, this means that your jaw muscles are working hard much more often than you think. It’s hard to consciously combat this unconscious jaw tension. That’s where a neuromuscular dentist can help. 

How We Achieve Relaxation

So how can we achieve relaxation for your jaw muscles to combat your migraines? First, we relax your muscles with a kind of electronic massage called TENS. Then, once we have relaxed your muscles, we can identify the best position for your jaw. 

Once we’ve identified this position, we can recommend a solution. For most people, this is simply an orthotic that holds your jaw in its optimal position. You might start out wearing this all the time, but eventually you’ll just wear it at night. Other people might benefit from dental restorations that can hold your jaw in the best position. Finally, in some cases, we might use epigenetic orthodontics to reshape your jaw into a healthier shape that fosters more relaxed jaw muscles. 

Looking for Drug-Free Migraine Treatment in Boston?

Are you dealing with migraines and want a drug-free way to combat them? This can work well as a standalone treatment or alongside your migraine medication. To learn if this approach is right for  your migraines, please call (781) 396-8558 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Divine Smiles in Boston.