There’s nothing pretty about TMJ.
If you’re suffering from it yourself, you’ll already know this.
TMJ can be a long-lasting and thoroughly miserable condition. It often begins mildly, but it rarely stays that way.
I know – I’ve been there.
At its worst, the pain affected every aspect of my sleeping and waking life.
I’m not ashamed to admit that at times it made me cry.
When I read that some sufferers become so distressed by the condition that they fall into depression, I wasn’t even slightly surprised.
When I was first diagnosed, I did not realize how badly TMJ disrupts people’s lives. Over time, I found out.
…and it was awful.
You may already be aware that finding a remedy for your own TMJ misery is likely to be a difficult – and possibly frustrating – task.
If you’ve suffered TMJ for a while, then you are already on that road… and you truly wonder where – or, even, if – it ever ends.
That’s exactly where I found myself.
And as I searched for answers, I discovered that not only was I not alone but that the outlook was often not a happy one.
I had already searched high and low to find remedies.
But I increasingly came to one terrifying conclusion:
Specialists didn’t really have a handle on what was causing my pain.
In fact, it was worse than this.
The treatments they recommended actually feel like experiments.
Each specialist recommended his own specialism as a likely cure for my TMJ.
But each specialist turned out to be wrong.
GP, dentist, neurologist, orofacial surgeon to name a few…
All well-meaning, but all restricted to their own area of expertise.
I doubt they really understand the root causes of TMJ.
I, of course, knew even less. So I had to try it all.
Nerve and muscle pain relief. Splints, mouthguards, botox. Teeth filing, vagus nerve stimulation, surgery….
As each one failed, I moved on to the next.
And the results of all these efforts?
Either small, short-lived improvements – or no improvements at all.
Hours of my time in specialists’ offices and thousands of my hard-earned dollars later… there was little to show but disappointment and lost hope.
I almost got used to the process of meeting a new specialist, discussing my symptoms, listening to him or her give their professional opinion…
…then me paying substantial sums of money, hoping and praying that this time it would be different. Only to realize in the end that… it wasn’t different.
…It was exactly the same.
Well, the same except I was financially poorer than I had been before.
But the TMJ hadn’t gone away. Or, even, improved.
But wasted money, wasted hours and dashed hopes aren’t the real horror of TMJ
Before eventually stumbling onto the remedy that cured my TMJ I had come to a major realization about the condition.
And the real horror of TMJ is that it isn’t stationary.
It doesn’t sit still.
Instead, it deteriorates.
It gets worse.
Which leads us to the truly horrible realization that…
Wherever you are with your TMJ right now isn’t where you’ll be in the near future.
It’s almost certainly going to become more painful over time.
It did for me. And it did for almost every case study I read.
My symptoms became dramatically worse.
It wasn’t just the pain that worsened – although it definitely did.
What I found deeply distressing was the way my face became distorted. People remarked that I physically looked different.
The TMJ was pulling on the muscles in my face while also wearing away at the joints on one side of my jaw.
And so my jaw shifted to the left, making my face lopsided.
After a while a new symptom: whenever I open my mouth there was a loud pop.
It started as the occasional one-off.
Then it became regular.
And by ‘loud’ I mean that a person 5 feet away could hear it.
I quickly learned to not open my mouth all the way.
Because twice it almost dislocated when I yawned. Which really scared the life out of me.
So I had to make sure I didn’t open it more than halfway.
And then I developed the sensation of clicking, popping and scraping whenever I moved my mouth.
It was especially disturbing when I was eating – and provided a constant reminder to me that things were gradually getting worse.
My own research found that none of this was unusual.
This wasn’t ‘special’ TMJ. This was ‘normal’ TMJ.
This is how TMJ gets worse.
Pain disturbed my sleep – often making sleep impossible.
I awoke already exhausted.
Some days I swear I sleepwalked through the day.
Only the pain in my head and face kept me awake.
But, as I say, TMJ doesn’t sit still.
Over time the pain spread so that it covered my entire head, all over my face, across both shoulders and down my neck.
I wondered how much worse it could get. I soon found out.
My TMJ started to affect my hearing. Which I personally found terrifying. I love music, I love talking with friends, I enjoy movies… I needed my hearing.
I was scared out of my mind that I was going deaf.
It began with earaches. And then ringing in the ears.
But it progressed to a kind of ‘thickening’ of my ears where sound became distorted and quieter.
All this slow build-up of pain and misery wore away at me, my health, my happiness, and my life.
I’m clear of all TMJ symptoms now. But I remember so clearly how frightening it all was back then.
I visited TMJ forums and what I read scared the life out of me.
Many, many people had suffered from TMJ for decades.
I learned from their comments there was plenty more misery to come.
Worst of all were the people who said their vision was becoming distorted.
I was already scared that my hearing was going. To lose my sight too was beyond thinking.
I stopped reading those forums in the end. I couldn’t bear to see where this could all end up.
I could feel my happiness slipping away from me.
I became sullen and quiet.
I snapped at my spouse.
I was moody with friends and family.
I knew I was like this, but I couldn’t stop it.
And this isn’t uncommon – it’s expected.
The medical profession is already well aware that any type of chronic pain can cause deeply felt mental health problems.
- Rapid mood swings…
- intense frustration…
- an inability to find any pleasure in life…
These are normal and accepted consequences of ongoing discomfort and pain.
TMJ is a typical cause of ongoing discomfort and pain – and we sufferers will eventually recognize both the physical and mental anguish listed above.
Some TMJ sufferers take mild antidepressants to deal with the emotional damage caused by unrelenting pain, popping, numbness, ear ringing, and facial distortion.
I felt very low with my TMJ and had many moments of bad mood and even, I suspect, mild depression.
It didn’t help my relationship with my spouse – or with anyone else, to be honest.
When I read the account of a young TMJ sufferer who had decided that if he didn’t cure his suffering within a month… that he’d end his own life… I could understand exactly where he was coming from.
I’m not one of life’s complainers – but I grew angry with how I was treated.
Some nights the pain made me cry. Other times, the helplessness made me feel very low.
I was running out of options. I was quite literally running out of things to try.
And money was becoming a problem.
My insurance didn’t cover this kind of condition. The treatments aren’t cheap – they’re not very pleasant either. And the costs add up alarmingly fast.
And, more and more, I had to face up to the possibility that I might be stuck with this misery for the rest of my life.
And that, I can tell you hand on heart, was an awful prospect.
Here are some of the different specialists that can get involved in trying to uncover the cause – and cure – for your TMJ:
- general practitioner
- facial pain specialist
- orofacial surgeon
- orofacial myologist
- PRI physical therapist
Curing TMJ is as reliable as rolling a dice…
Which specialist is right for you?
If the diagnosis is tricky and the source of the pain is difficult – or impossible – to pin down then… you may as well roll a dice.
What was shocking to me – and it took me quite a while to realize this – was that the experts I was seeing didn’t actually know how to remedy TMJ.
To their credit, most of them didn’t pretend that they did.
But it was so incredibly frustrating…
On the one hand, they were honest enough to admit the causes were varied and not properly understood.
Yet, on the other hand, they’d recommend a fix that they could do…
…but which would cost so many dollars…
while admitting they couldn’t offer any assurance they’d work!
I still remember my initial horror at the realization that, effectively…
They weren’t treating me… They were experimenting on me.
Because each specialist was limited as to what he or she could offer me.
They could only recommend something they were capable of doing – not necessarily something that would definitely work.
So that’s what they would offer me.
I had no clue.
I was the piggy in the middle being pushed here and there.
I just had to cross my fingers and do as I was told.
How could I possibly know what was right for me?