Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder is a serious midlife problem involving the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself that cause discomfort, pain, or even a total lack of jaw mobility.
I first heard of TMJ pain about 30 years ago. At the time, TMJ was a known problem but no one wanted to tackle it. The dental world said it was a medical problem and the medical world said it was a dental problem. Consequently a lot of people were not getting the proper diagnosis and treatment for this painful affliction. It was this battle that caught my attention — not the thought of ever contracting it myself.
Then, last August, my jaw suddenly shifted a painful shift. It hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I would be able to open my mouth. (I was but I so so nervous about what kind of damage might have occurred). From that point forward, my jaw was always in some kind of TMJ pain. Sometimes my jaw would shift again, sometimes it would throb, sometimes it would click and pop, and sometimes I would get headaches. After 4 month dealing with all these symptoms, I decided it was time to get some much needed treatment for my TMJ pain.
I remembered what I had heard about the dental/medical controversy and decided to see my dentist first to rule out any dental issues that could be causing my symptoms. After a thorough check-up, my dentist said he couldn’t find any physical dental reasons for me to have the TMJ pain, so he referred me to a dental TMJ specialist. I called the referral and nearly passed out when the receptionist quoted me a $230 TMJ consultation fee to get started, a fee that she reported was probably not dental insurance covered and even it was, I would have to pay out-of-pocket first and then try to get it reimbursed. I got to thinking, if that was just a consultation fee for TMJ pain, how much more out-of-pocket money would I be paying for further TMJ pain treatment? I was sure it was going to be ALOT.
So, I contacted my physician next and asked her if my medical provider covered TMJ pain treatment and was ecstatic to hear “yes, we do.” I made an appointment with my doctor and she confirmed that I was suffering from TMJ pain. She scheduled an x-ray of my jaw to rule out any physical abnormalities and made an appointment for me to see a physical therapist for TMJ pain treatment.
My previous physical therapy experience was attending 4 weeks of twice-a-week appointments being guided by a therapist in different therapy protocol. That was what I was expecting with this appointment. Boy, was I wrong. The therapist ran through some diagnostic exercises and told me that basically I had about 10 different issues around and with my temporomandibular joint. Those issues were not only to blame for my TMJ pain but for posture problems, headaches, ear aches, shoulder aches, a well as back and neck problems too. Yikes. I really did have a problem!!!
Thinking I was going to set up appointments for therapy, boy was I caught off guard when the doctor told me he was giving me TMJ exercises to do on my own for the rest of my life. He also added that if I did the exercises consistently, I still probably wouldn’t see any change in my TMJ pain for at least 3 months. Wow.
I am a good patient, so I began immediately with the recommended exercises. It has been almost two months and if anything, I feel like my jaw has loosened up, causing more clicking, popping, and pain. But I will stick with the regime for the prescribed 3 month window to see if it is actually making a difference before I set out on a different path.
And treatment has been varied too, from the most aggressive (surgery) to the most prevalent (do nothing and deal with it).
If anything midlife has taught me it is that:#Midlife does not mean putting up with medical issues. Get treatment now for TMJ,headaches,bad knees… Click To Tweet
What are you doing for your TMJ pain?