TMJ Relief Hunters
My wife has suffered from TMJ pain for most of her life. I had never known anyone with it until I met her.
What I have learned and seen since then breaks my heart.
I can’t imagine a stronger person.
And I can’t imagine the amount of pain she must be in on a daily basis.
It started slowly…
Occasionally she would tell me her jaw hurt her too much to eat something. That made sense, because it was usually after we had eaten something like jerky or she had been chewing gum.
From time to time she’d have an unexpected flareup. Maybe it was stress, maybe it was the way she slept, but in a few days it would be gone.
Until about a year ago the worst it had been required her to go and get a prescription for exactly 5 Hydrocodone.
Because she has a high tolerance for pain and was not interested in risking addiction we requested that the doctor not give us a full months worth.
Thanks to the opioid crisis doctors are less and less likely to prescribe pain medications for the patients that need them.
That’s a good thing, the risk for addiction is far too high to make it a long term pain management solution.
But when you need relief now, and just for a few days until your jaw can heal, what are you to do?
She couldn’t eat solid foods for over a week
It didn’t seem like the doctors cared at all. It still doesn’t, really.
Almost a year ago she experienced a flareup bad enough to go to the doctor.
Her general practitioner made us feel like he was listening but said he wouldn’t be able to prescribe anything but 800mg ibuprofen and a muscle relaxer.
That was actually fantastic because our first step is to try OTC solutions then upgrade from there depending on how effective they are.
The muscle relaxer (cyclobenzaprine) is the most effective treatment during an early episode 99% of the time. That and a high dosage of an OTC NSAID stopped most TMJ flareups in their tracks before.
But this time it didn’t.
We gave it another two weeks for the cyclobenzaprine to do its magic (once your muscles have been that tight for so long, you need to keep them relaxed for a bit to heal).
It got worse.
We returned to our doctor, informing him of her condition.
He wouldn’t do anything. Not his specialty, doesn’t want to prescribe pain killers or more muscle relaxers.
He ignored her clear requests for help, our begging not for “pain pills” but for relief.
Just something to let her eat one single fucking meal.
I don’t care if you tell me to use a voodoo curse as long as it works. It doesn’t have to be pills.
Just help us. Please.
She was off solid food entirely, because she couldn’t chew.
She could barely open her mouth.
Finally we went to the ER (she is a strong and stubborn woman, just like her jaw).
Hours of judgment, months without relief
Nurse after nurse poked and prodded her. Her blood pressure alarm went off sending them scurrying.
A serious looking doctor wandered over to let us know she needed her heart looked at.
Stop fucking with her and listen to her, I explained too patiently.
Her blood pressure is high because of the massive amount of pain she’s in. Added to the anxiety she feels in general, and from being here. Most of all: the anxiety she’s feeling with you guys poking and prodding without asking, no one answering her questions, and all of her actual complaints being ignored.
He got pissy and left.
Hours later her attending walked in to do his examination before releasing us with instructions to get her blood pressure looked at.
He was going to tell her to go home and get an appointment for her blood pressure and anxiety, and completely ignore her TMJ.
She had too much ativan (the one concession they allowed her for anxiety) in her system to react.
But I didn’t.
Look at her jaw, it’s swollen to half again its normal size.
Feel it, it’s like there’s a fist in there trying to punch out.
His eyes grew into saucers as he did.
That’s the only way we could ever get anyone to hear us.
When we were clearly with our backs to the wall, at the end of an incredibly long night, with nothing to gain or lose.
With the little bit of pity in their eyes that says they don’t think they’re going to find anything.
With that little look of panic when they think they’ll still have to turn us down, and they’re not quite sure how upset we are.
Drug seekers can be violent, after all.
Looking through her medical history with TMJ
You’d see she’s the model patient. She sticks with a treatment regiment long enough to see if it’s going to work. She gives it months, and doesn’t press for narcotics.
She’s tried physical therapy, chiropractors, herbal supplements, everything.
Yet we get the same response every time we ask for help with her TMJ.
Treated as if we’re drug seekers.
Condescended by doctors trying to protect us from ourselves.
Talked down to by nurses who think all we need to do is take a vacation and de-stress.
The only help from a psychiatrist who can use anxiety medicine that also helps treat pain.
And so we began our hunt
Our hunt for relief.
It’s my goal to find every useful tip, trick, product, hack, whatever for TMJ pain relief and share them here.
Because the second worst part about this whole process has been how impossible it is to find reliable information.
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