Craniofacial Pain

If frequent migraines, neck aches, or facial muscle stiffness consistently ruin your day, you might be suffering from chronic craniofacial pain. A common cause of this pain is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. If you’re tired of constant discomfort in your face, head, or neck, Dr. Jon Martin at Northwest Dental Services and Denture Implant Center in Tacoma, Washington, can help you find the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Craniofacial Pain Q & A

What are the most common types of craniofacial pain?

There are several different types of craniofacial pain, as the term is used to describe many conditions affecting the head and face. Several types of headaches fall under this umbrella:

Trigeminal Neuralgia

A chronic pain disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve. There are two main types: typical and atypical trigeminal neuralgia. The typical form results in episodes of severe, sudden, shock-like pain in one side of the face that lasts for seconds to a few minutes. Groups of these episodes can occur over a few hours. The atypical form results in a constant burning pain that is less severe. Episodes may be triggered by any touch to the face. Both forms may occur in the same person. It is one of the most painful conditions, and can result in depression.


Trigeminal Neuralgia treatment usually starts with medications, and some people don't need any additional treatment. However, over time, some people with the condition may stop responding to medications, or they may experience unpleasant side effects. For those people, injections or surgery provide other trigeminal neuralgia treatment options.

If your condition is due to another cause, such as multiple sclerosis, your doctor will treat the underlying condition.

Tension and myofascial headaches

The most common type of a headache, tension headaches manifest as a feeling of tightness around your head. They are often caused by tight knots in the muscles of your upper back, neck, or face.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are less common than tension headaches but can be debilitating. If you find yourself sensitive to light and sound during a severe headache, you may be suffering from migraines.

You might also become nauseous or have visual changes during a migraine. The pain can spread all over your head, neck, and face. As a chronic condition, migraines are unbearable and can seem hopeless.

Cervicogenic headaches

Highly treatable, cervicogenic headaches begin in the neck, spreading into the head and face as they become more severe. If the base of your skull becomes tender and neck movement is difficult or painful, you may be suffering from cervicogenic headaches.

Migraines, tension headaches, and cervicogenic headaches are three of the most common, but not the only, types of craniofacial pain, Dr. Martin can help to pinpoint which type you suffer from in order to best treat your pain.

Am I at risk of developing chronic craniofacial pain?

There are many potential causes of craniofacial pain, and finding your specific causes can help Dr. Martin to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Common causes include:

  • Abnormal bite
  • Jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Arthritis
  • Genetics
  • Jaw injury
  • Pulled muscles

If Dr. Martin determines that you are at risk of developing chronic craniofacial pain or TMJ pain, he can help you in taking measures to prevent pain and discomfort before a more serious condition develops.

What are my treatment options for craniofacial pain?

Suffering from chronic craniofacial pain can make everyday life difficult and trying. Luckily, many treatment options are available, and Dr. Martin can help you find one that will work best in the long-term. Common treatments and preventive measures include:

  • Co-management with neurologists, ENT physicians, oral surgeions, physical therapists or familypractice physicians 
  • Rehabilitation with physical therapy
  • Home exercise program
  • Custom oral decompression orthotics
  • Pharmacological management
  • Surgery

In creating your treatment plan, Dr. Martin will take into account your overall health, genetics, and the nature and severity of your condition to develop the plan with the most positive outlook.

Living with chronic craniofacial pain is difficult but hardly inevitable. Call or schedule an appointment online with Northwest Dental Services and Denture Implant Center today and consult with Dr. Martin about your chronic craniofacial pain.