Migraines, Headaches, and Jaw Tension

If you’re reading this article, chances are you suffer from migraines and/or headaches. I bet you also clench your jaw a lot. Take a moment to check in with your mouth. If someone put a pressure meter between your teeth, what would it read? A few ounces? A pound? A lot more than one pound?

What part of your mouth is your tongue touching? How hard is it pressing? When you open your mouth, do you experience popping and clicking?


The vast majority of tension headaches and non-hormonal migraines I see in my practice are linked very directly to jaw tension. There are, of course, many factors that play into migraines, but jaw tension is often a major one.

Try this:

  1. Clench your teeth and stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth, gently try turning and nodding your head a tiny bit, and notice how far you can easily move your head.

  2. Open your mouth a little, unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth, and again try gently turning and nodding your head. Notice how much more movement you have available with just that small change.

When your jaw is clenched, the pressure created affects the mobility of the top two vertebrae of your spine, C1 and C2. When those two vertebrae get stuck or pulled out of place, headaches and/or migraines often follow.

Here’s another thing to try:

  1. Open your mouth and see how wide you can comfortably go. Notice any popping or clicking.

  2. Let a little space between your teeth. Gently and slowly slide your jaw forward, backwards, and side to side. Only go as far as is available and easy. Go each direction a few times.

    Tip: If a direction is hard to find, place your hand on your jaw so you have a target for that direction. For example, if going to the right is hard, place your hand on the bony part of the right side of your jaw and push gently towards it.

  3. Try opening your mouth again and see if you can open further or with less popping and clicking.

Doing a little of this everyday, especially when you wake up if you’re a clencher, is a great way to take care of your jaw. Practice leaving a little space between your teeth with your lips closed. (It’ll feel like you’re slack jawed, but you’re not and it’s worth it. This is neutral.) Take a moment now and then to unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth. If you’re a clencher and you don’t have a night guard, get one and protect your teeth while you work on this. I can’t promise these tools will make the headaches and migraines go away, but it’s a step in the right direction.