TMJ disorder can cause a fierce headache, but so can a brain tumor. In fact, the onset of brain tumor headaches can mimic head pain caused by a temporomandibular joint disorder.
Though the popping and clicking of “TMJ” gets a lot of attention, TMJ disorder (also known as TMD) can also cause considerable headaches, plus pain in the jaw, face and neck.
How a TMJ Headache Feels
Compared to a Brain Tumor Headache
“TMJ headache is usually on both sides of the head, worse in the morning and may be associated with trouble eating or moving the jaw,” says Brijesh Chandwani, DMD, BDS, Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain, with Connecticut & NY TMJ.
However, a brain tumor headache can also be on both sides of the head AND worse in the morning!
During sleep fluid builds up in the brain, caused by the mass, and this fluid creates pressure that, come morning, manifests as a headache which, as the day goes on, subsides. But brain cancer can also cause headaches at any time.
“While TMJ headaches are uncommonly associated with brain cancer, failed treatment response and symptoms such as tingling or numbness sensation, dizziness, sudden onset of pain should warrant a visit to a neurologist,” advises Dr. Chandwani.
“I had a patient several years ago who had headaches along with sudden restriction of his jaw and he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.
“Some patients with brain cancer just feel a headache and a lack of normal sensation in the jaw and head region (abnormal ear or taste sensation, etc.).”
If a person has headaches (and orofacial pain) that are attributed to TMJ disorder, and TMD treatments have failed, then a visit to a neurologist is in order to see if a brain tumor might be causing these symptoms.
A paper by Levitt et al in The Journal of Craniomandibular & Sleep Practice states: