Monday, September 18, 2023

Don't Speak

When someone looks at me, they see an overweight person who otherwise looks healthy.

However, I have a lot of things wrong with me. I don't talk about them much, because, well, who cares? Everybody has things wrong with them. But I could do a Thursday 13 list of my health issues and still not be done.

Today, though, I'm going to talk about TMJ. Or TMD, whichever you want to call it. I have had this problem for 30 years.

It is only getting worse.

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorders are a type of condition that can cause pain, stiffness, clicking, locking, or reduced movement of the jaw. 

There are many possible causes and risk factors for TMJ disorders, such as genetics, arthritis, jaw injury, teeth grinding, or certain connective tissue diseases. TMJ disorders can be diagnosed by physical examination, dental X-rays, CT scan, MRI, or arthroscopy. 

Treatment options may include medication, oral splints, physical therapy, counseling, injections, or surgery. 

TMJ disorders are usually not serious, but they can affect your quality of life and cause discomfort.

In my case, it comes and goes. I have had it off and on since my braces were removed when I was a teenager. But I would also go for years and not have a problem, only to have something 
trigger it. In the 2000s, for example, I had a lot of tension in my life, and it became a painful problem. My symptoms include clicking, my jaw locking shut (sometimes for up to two days), and lots of pain.

Lots and lots of pain.

After a while, it eased, and then came the infamous gallbladder surgery of 2013. During the operation, the anesthesiologist knocked my jaw out.  I distinctly remember that because the nurses were trying to get me to eat a popsicle and I couldn't get it in my mouth. Finally, I stood up to make my way to the bathroom and my jaw popped back into place.

It's a sweet relief when the thing goes back where it is supposed to be. There is residual soreness, but nothing like what you feel when it is out.

Since that night of my surgery, my TMJ has been an issue. Almost every morning, I get up and pop my jaw back into place. I have a mouth guard that the dentist made to help, and it did help for a while, but it seems to not be helping so much now.

Saturday, I bit down on a rice cake (a rice cake!) and had sharp pain shoot through my jaw, so strong it almost knocked me to the floor. It was like a million bees stung me. I put my hand to my jaw area and I could feel my pulse racing on the left side, the blood rushing around in there. My bite was suddenly off, with everything pulled to the right.

The pain was intense.

I alternated ice and heat, took muscle relaxers, and went to bed. Yesterday it wasn't hurting so much, and I tried to have an easy, relaxing today. This morning I felt almost normal, so I went to the grocery store and ran a few errands. I came home and ate a soft lunch of soup. Then I bit down on a baked potato chip, and the pain shot through my jaw again. Not as severe as on Saturday, but bad enough.

Now, it's an ache. Have you ever chewed gum so long that your jaws hurt? It's kind of like that in my jaw, but the pain also wraps around my entire head, and goes down my neck and into my back.

I have known for years that if my back is out, my jaw can get out, too. I just saw the chiropractor on Thursday, so I suspect the adjustment was a little off, and this is the result. So back to the chiropractor I go in the morning. I wanted to see my dentist after the incident at lunch, but she said for me to go to urgent care. Like they were going to do something. Urgent care around here is not something I care to use.

The chiropractor asked me questions to make sure I wasn't having a stroke, because I sounded a little slurred, she said when she called me on the phone. Sure I sound slurred, I told her. I can barely open my mouth without pain and I'm taking muscle relaxers. I'm coherent, I said. Joe Biden is the current president, and we had an orange dumb ass for the last one.

She laughed and said I sounded normal, but if anything changed, I should go to the emergency room.

I'm sitting here with heat on my shoulders and back, trying to figure out what the hell to do about this. If you read up on TMJ, you'll find that no one really knows how to resolve the matter. A mouth splint, which I have, is about the only cure. Surgery seldom works, and I've already said no doctor is cutting on me again. I've had enough of their invasive care.

One thing I want to remind people is that it never hurts to be nice. You never know what kind of invisible crap, like TMJ, someone might be going through.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, CD, I feel for you! I had braces in the 1970s and, while they straightened my teeth as promised, the cement that covered my teeth destroyed the enamel and was the genesis of all the dental work I've needed since. (My dad paid for them in the 1970s and I paid in the 1990s and now; these chiclets are a dental industry!) Anyway, maybe you and I would have been better served if we'd waited a few decades to get our teeth fixed, as orthodontia seems to have progressed by leaps and bounds. Anyway, I am very sorry this is happening to you and hope those clear country skies and pretty sunsets bring you some comfort. PS When my dear friend Henry came to in the hospital after his bike collided with a truck, he was asked who the President was and he said "The Orange Cheeto." I bet hospital workers could give us a great list of names for The Former Guy.


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