Barometric Pressure Changes Impact TMJ and Migraines
We all know that older relative who claims their knee (or hip or elbow) acts up when the pressure changes in Wichita Falls. It probably shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that the temporomandibular joint can also act up when there is a change in barometric pressure. It’s also true that migraineurs often describe barometric pressure changes–especially pressure drops–as a migraine trigger.
As with many things TMJ- and migraine-related, there is a mystery about why this happens. There are four common explanations put forward:
- Joint changes
- Trigeminal nerve stimulation
- Blood sugar changes
- Pressure on sinuses
It’s entirely possible that TMJ jaw pain and migraines trigger for different reasons with barometric pressure changes.
Joint Changes with Pressure
Barometric pressure impacts all parts of your body, but it especially affects the joints. The joints have a fluid in them that helps to cushion jolts and lubricate movement. When the air pressure changes, the fluid can expand and contract. Low pressure also allows the expansion of other joint tissues, like the cushioning disc, the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and more. This expansion can create greater pressure in the joint and on the nerves.
Pressure Changes Stimulate the Trigeminal Nerve
Barometric pressure changes, especially drops in barometric pressure, can cause stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is a key trigger locus for migraines and is often seen as the lynchpin that links TMJ and migraine. However, at least one study shows that barometric pressure has the opposite effect on people with TMJ than those with migraines. This doesn’t mean that TMJ and migraine aren’t linked by the trigeminal nerve, just that pressure can play the same role in overstimulating the trigeminal nerve as TMJ.
Blood Sugar and Barometric Pressure
For some people, blood sugar changes trigger migraines, too. Oddly, barometric pressure drops make it harder to control your blood sugar, which can lead to spikes and dips that set off migraines. Blood sugar impact on TMJ is long-term, so it’s probably not why your joint hurts when pressure changes.
Sinus Pressure and Barometric Pressure Changes
Finally, when the outside air pressure changes in either direction, it can cause pressure on the sinuses. This is usually caused by a mismatch between the internal and external air pressure, so it’s more likely linked to barometric pressure drops when the elevated pressure inside the sinuses pushes outward on the sensitive sinus lining. Typically, this is more associated with migraines than with TMJ pain, although sinus pain and TMJ facial pain are often confused.