TMJ Could Be Causing Your Exertion Headaches
Once you’ve eliminated the most severe potential causes of secondary exertion headaches, consider other possibilities before settling for the explanation that you have primary exertion headaches. One possible explanation of your exertion headaches is temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).
TMJ can cause headaches because it leads to additional strain in your head and neck muscles. It’s common to clench your teeth when performing strenuous exercise, especially those that require the use of your core muscles. Clenching the jaw helps stabilize the core, but if your jaw is unbalanced or otherwise in an unhealthy configuration, the strain in your jaw and neck muscles can be significant. Note that your jaw muscles stretch up to your temples, anchoring on either side of your head just behind your eyes.
TMJ can also trigger migraines. That’s because the source of many migraines, the trigeminal nerve, is the same nerve that controls jaw muscles and carries pain signals from them to the brain. TMJ can overwhelm the trigeminal nerve, triggering the release of compounds that set off migraines. The similarity of symptoms means that many people experiencing exertion headaches likely have exertion migraines, which might be due to TMJ.