Suffering from TMJ


Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, commonly known as TMJ or lock jaw, is a problem affecting the jaw and the surrounding muscles. For the last few years, I’ve noticed some unusual discomforts ranging from a persistent ear ache to headaches behind the eye and a sore jaw. My medical doctor insisted that there was nothing wrong with my ear. My chiropractor thought my headaches were caused by the neck injury I had from a car accident. It wasn’t until I went to see my dentist for what I thought was a cracked tooth that I discovered that all those symptoms were caused by the tightening of my temporalis and masseter muscles. His recommendation was to alternate using an ice pack with a hot compress, five minutes each, for a total of 30 minutes twice a day. The first time I used this method, the pain went away within a few days.

Yesterday morning , I realized that the TMJ was back. I couldn’t chew the soft flour tortilla I had for breakfast, nor could I chew on the strawberries I had for a snack later. Even eating my Malt-O-Meal gave me trouble. I tried taking a couple of Excedrin, but the pain remained. I didn’t even sleep at night.

I’m not sure what else to try, other than the ice pack/hot compress combo. I hope this pain goes away soon because I’m running out of soft foods to enjoy.

Have you ever had TMJ? What has helped your pain?



2 thoughts on “Suffering from TMJ

  1. Massage Therapy!! I am a therapist here in NY, and I know quite a few people who suffered from TMJ who were helped by it. Depending on the regulations on massage where you live, and the therapists specialty, different therapists can either do intraoral (inside the mouth, obviously with gloves on, etc) massage or simply massage from the outside/face. It really helps with the pain.

  2. I’ve found that short-term high dose anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen) work wonders for getting it to initially loosen up enough to heal/get better. The way it was explained to me is once it starts to lock up, it’s basically the equivalent of a charlie horse where the muscle just constantly spasms keeping it from being able to open properly. Getting it to calm the heck down is step one, which the ibuprofen does. Then the compresses and other remedies will be more effective. Other than that, wearing a mouth guard at night and avoiding things like chewing gum help keep me from locking up.

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