If you have migraines, you likely have a strong desire to do anything you can to get rid of them. The pain can be so intense that there’s a temptation to just get the strongest pain medication you can find, including opioids. But opioids have many risks — they may even cause your migraines to transition from episodic to chronic.
opioid pills being spilled out on a countertop

What Are Episodic and Chronic Migraines?

The distinction between episodic migraines depends on how often you get migraines. Episodic migraines are migraines that occur less than fifteen days out of every 30 days. Chronic migraines occur 15 days or more out of every 30 days. Note that this is headache days, not headache attacks. For example, you can consider it a chronic migraine if you have five migraine attacks that last three days each. Chronic migraines are sometimes called “transformed migraines,” because many people with episodic migraines see them “transform” into chronic migraines.

How Opioids Increase Transition Risk

People taking opioids for episodic migraines are about twice as likely to transition to chronic migraines. We’re not entirely certain why,  but it seems that the mechanism is likely linked to opioid tolerance.

Researchers developed a model based on “hyperalgesic priming” to describe the transition to chronic migraines. Essentially, when your brain becomes exposed to opioids, it gets more sensitive to pain and inflammation. Your brain may have tolerated minor stimuli in the past without causing migraines but over time it can cause a catastrophic response and trigger migraines.

Consider Drug-Free Migraine Treatment

The opioid-induced transition to chronic migraine reminds us that drugs come with risks, which are often unpredictable and in some cases can make your condition worse. All migraine drugs have risks, although some such as triptans have no link to transformed migraines.

For people whose TMJ contributes to the frequency and intensity of migraines, TMJ treatment offers a drug-free alternative that can reduce your migraines while combating other TMJ symptoms. You may also experience facial pain, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), jaw pain, or neck pain alongside your migraine. If you frequently wake up with a headache, TMJ treatment can help.

TMJ will help you relax your jaw without the use of drugs so you don’t become dependent on anything but your night guard. Make sure you visit our TMJ dentist for a custom-fitted night guard for the best results.

To learn whether TMJ treatment can help with your migraines in River Edge, NJ, please call 201-343-4044 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.