I’ve seen a lot of doctors. General Practitioners, Neurologists, Dermatologists, Allergists. I’ve tried a lot of medications. I even had toxins shot up into my head. But never have I truly felt real HOPE of getting help and relief from the headaches I’ve been plagued with for years.
Now, I’ve had my hopes UP. I’ve been hopeFUL, but that’s been a little different. I’ve left doctor’s offices in the past, thinking that maybe things were going to change and maybe I would find some relief, but I don’t think I’ve EVER felt as FULL of HOPE and OPTIMISM as I was yesterday.
If you’ve read my blog, you probably know of my struggle with headaches. How many meds I’ve tried. And drastic measures. And tests I’ve taken. Well, one thing we’ve left out of the equation this whole time is my jaw. I was diagnosed with TMJ when I was in college, and all these years later, it’s worse than ever.
Anyone with TMJ will understand what kind of pain is associated with this syndrome. Your jaw HURTS. You can’t chew gum or chewy foods for long, because you will want to cry after a minute or two. When you talk or eat, your jaw makes clicking and popping sounds. (In my case, my husband stares at me and says, “That has GOT to be painful – it is SO LOUD.)
When you have TMJ, you can’t open your mouth fully. If you have any dental work, or even a simple check up or cleaning, you end up in terrible pain and stiffness after having your mouth open for so long. If your job involves talking and smiling, your face will hurt at the end of the day. When I was a teacher and a Universal Studio Guide, I would be near tears some days from pain, stiffness, and a swollen face. My husband used to know just by looking at my face that I was miserable.
I’ve been treated for it in the past. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it immediately this time around. I suppose in my stress and finding a treatment for headaches, I just didn’t think, “Hey, it might be my jaw.” I suppose you could say I’m distracted. When I finally sat in silence and felt how bad my jaw was hurting, I decided to mention it to my neurologist and he gave me the name of a specialist.
I walked in with my five pages of intake questions, and was nervous. Until I saw the doctor. I sat down to wait and found a booklet of information. This page captured my attention.
He took photos of my face. He asked a TON of questions. He put pressure on certain places around my head, my jaw, and in my mouth. EVERY place he touched, HURT.
What I realized (and am not sure why I never did before) is that when my jaw is out of whack, it affects EVERYTHING. My jaw, my head, my neck, my shoulders. Whenever I’m stressed, I clench my jaw and it gets worse. Everything is truly connected.
He put my head in a device, put microphones on my jaw, and recorded the sounds of it clicking and popping.
After that, he took a CT scan around my head of my jaw. He thinks most likely that the RIGHT mouthpiece will help me immensely, but there’s a possibility that it’s so bad my jaw needs to be realigned with braces. I’m meeting with him on Monday to figure out the best course of action.
I cried in the office. He told me I’m a tough case, but he is going to help me feel better. I fully believe he will, and I can’t wait to get my life back!