Hi, I am Carol or Catswold (Catswolds with the last 's' is retired).
I just woke up one morning in 1980 with excruciating pain and a locked jaw. The year before I had just graduated with a Master's Degree in Music (Bassoon Performance), so this was devastating to me. I was trying to become a professional bassoonist (wind instrument) in a symphony orchestra. I happened to be "lucky" in that I was playing in a summer community orchestra at the time and the other bassoon player was an orthodontist whose father was the chairman of the Jaw Dept at a major university. He said I had TMJ.
I went to several "top-notch" dentists/etc., in the area who all had basically the same opinion - braces to fix my bite and probably surgery to lengthen my lower jaw bone. I have a small mouth and jaw with an overbite (even after braces twice). I debated, I saw specialists, I was in excruciating pain and finally had braces put on my bottom teeth in preparation to have surgery in about a year.
What about my career? Would I be able to play okay? No one could answer. I continued playing the bassoon semi-professionally while working a full-time job in a bank. No one did anything about the non-stop pain. I would have been suicidal had it not been for my faith. I spent many nights on my bed screaming in pain and hitting my jaw trying to stop the pain.
A year passed and I had to decide on no surgery (after getting many more opinions). Braces were put on my top teeth to now just fix the bite. The next year or so was a nightmare. I could barely play my bassoon and the pain. AHHHHHH! The pain actually seem to get worse towards the time of getting the braces off.
I'll try to quicken this - the braces were removed, still pain, a bite splint was made (novel idea at the time, why didn't they do that before the braces?), still pain, went to university jaw clinic once a week for months to work on bite splints, still pain, tricked into seeing a chiropractor, he helped break up the 24/7 level 7-9 pain, still had pain but with breaks and sometimes not so intense. I moved and finally stopped playing the bassoon. Still wore top bulky bite splint, pain about 70 to 80% with pain ranging from 0 to 9 (on a 10-level scale.) I went thru phases with lesser and greater pain for several years. I wasn't really living a full life it seemed because of TMJ.
I did have a time lasting over three years of being totally pain free - 1999 - 2002. ***NO PAIN*** Unbelievable and oh so wonderful! I loved my job. I was happy. I traveled to England. 7th heaven!!! Then the job started getting stressful because of "scandal" and the media hounding and nasty politics (I worked as a police chief's secretary in a rather larger city). My TMJ again got very bad. This time the 24/7 pain was harder to cope with. More changes at work. My work suffered. I sought help again for the umpteenth time (always braces and surgery). After becoming suicidal even with my faith I then started seeking pain relief rather than TMJ relief. It was frustrating - the worst time of my life until the late 2005 when I started taking pain medications *** finally *** and making many other changes; the changes being -
1. Got on the Internet and started doing serious researching and found TMJ support sites. Wonderful! They have been great!!!
2. Transferred from the too-high stress job to the quietest job in the police dept.
3. Worked (still working) on my posture big-time.
4. Started seeing an excellent cranial-sacral massage therapist (physical therapy just before had been a big help also).
5. Started taking Lyrica for the burning face and neck pain;
6. Zanaflex (a muscle relaxant that finally worked but also works on my eyes so have to be careful);
7. Added a very small dose 7.5 mg of Buspar to counteract any clenching and/or grinding that the anti-depressant Prozac (I was already taking) might cause;
8. Finally discovered a pain reliever that worked sometimes - Vicoprofen.
9. Added Magnesium, Super Vitamin B Complex and Omega/Fish Oils to my diet.
10. Never chew gum or ice or eat anything chewy or too hard.
11. Use lots of moist heat and/or ice directly on my jaw joint and neck.
12. Got a new less-bulky bottom bite splint.
I think those are the big points, and I didn't do them necessarily in that order, but by February 2006 I was having a lot of pain-free time. I have to be careful with my TMJs. They are severely damaged (DJD), but I have a reasonably functioning, mostly pain-free jaw now (with limitations). I praise the Lord for that! Thank you also goes to the TMJ support sites where I gathered valuable information and resources that I didn't know even existed (even tho I had done lots of library research before).
I want to help anyone who has the possibility of having TMJ. TMJ is a very misunderstood dysfunction by everyone including dentists and particularly doctors. The pain from TMJ is much more intense as the nerves are so close to the brain. The muscles, arteries, nerves, etc. are all in a pretty small tight area right next to the brain. The list of symptoms is almost endless. We are all the same but yet so very, very different. What treatment or medication works for one may not work for another. It's frustrating for doctors (and dentists). Everyone!
I don't know all the right words or anything, but I'm pretty much convinced that the TMJoints, mouth area, etc., are/is like a main structural axis for the entire body. If it is off, a whole bunch of problems can occur. But I also believe that our bodies can adapt marvelously; we just put them past the "point" sometimes/frequently and therefore, PAIN!!!
I will stop soon. This is my number one weakness - I am too wordy. I really do try and cut my words, but it doesn't happen. I have too much information that I want to share.
Personally, I love God with all my heart and mind and soul. My faith is the only reason I am alive today and tho I think a lot of my life was wasted because of TMJ - no more. I have work to do.
I also love two kitty cats - Piddle and Puddle, love to read, garden, draw, computer design/layout, and classical music (especially bassoons and symphony orchestras). I treasure my Mother, sister, brothers and many nieces and nephews. I am blessed.
If anyone ever wants to contact me about anything or even just to "talk," please feel free to private message here. I check this wonderful forum everyday.
Information is your best ally with your fight against TMJ, and,
stress is your biggest enemy.
I do apologize for my many words. I hope at least a few may be helpful to you.