How Jaw Tension Can Lead To Headaches & What To Do About It
Stress isn't just a mental thing: It has plenty of physical manifestations, too. "Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, or fight-or-flight response," explains integrative physician Bindiya Gandhi, M.D. "When you're stressed your body tenses up, and many people hold stress in their bodies differently: in their gut, their shoulders, and even more commonly, in their jaws."
About 20% of the adult's population (primarily young women) are thought to clench their jaws and grind their teeth, and that number has likely increased since the start of COVID-19. Research has confirmed that there is definitely a psychological component the behavior, and grinding your teeth while awake is widely considered to be a reaction to stress. Gandhi said that people will often grind their teeth in their sleep during stressful periods, too.
Beyond causing discomfort in the ears, jaw, and face, clenching and grinding can contribute to headaches.
How jaw and teeth tension can lead to headaches, and what to do about it.
"All that pressure while clenching actually increases temporal headaches," Gandhi explained. "The way to get rid of these headaches is to stop clenching your jaw by addressing the underlying stressors going on through stress management."
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Even in the midst of a stress headache season to end all stress headache seasons, we don't need to resign ourselves to feeling tense all the time. While the world is a scary place right now and unknowns abound, there are still tools that can help us approach every day from a more centered place.