Ok, I have TMJ. I am absolutely at my breaking point. I have severe neck pain, HORRIBLE pain in my jaw that shoots into my ears and temples. I CANNOT stand it anymore. My current insurance will not cover anything to do with TMJ, however, I am getting new insurance on 8/1. I got a new job and took a pay cut just to get better insurance the only problem is that I work 12 hour shifts rotating days and nights throughout the week as a 911 operator (which requires me to talk alot). I am doing everything I can do to get through the day with this pain. I also have arthritis in my jaw. I just started going to a pain management doctor and I don't think he quite understands how bad it is. I have to take pain meds all day, everyday just to function. The headaches and pain are UNBEARABLE. And I mean UNBEARABLE. I had a splint made a few years ago but my jaw is moving (or something like that) so much that the splint hurts me now to wear it. I am only 39 and this has taken over my life. I don't go anywhere, and am becoming very withdrawn b/c of the constant pain. I really think I need surgery to correct it but now I am afraid of taking the time off from my new job. I just can't win for losing. I have no faith in doctors anymore. What do I do, and where do I go from here?
It's sad to read your story as it sounds too much like me at your age (read my Sticky: TMJ if interested). You probably are not going to like what I have to write, sorry, but because of our similarities I feel I should give my opinion from my experience - it may be necessary for you to totally change your job and lifestyle. I'm referring to your job where you must talk all day for 12 hours (8 hours is just as bad). And not only talk, but handle very stressful types of telephone calls.
The only times my TMJ has been completely pain-free over the last 27 years were when I had low-stress, no-talking jobs. This has happened twice, the most recent time started in January 2006 when I transfered from a job (which I loved) that was extremely stressful and required me to talk all the time to my current no-stress, little-talking (and not quite so exciting) job for which I am very grateful.
Yes, there are other ways to try and manage the symptoms and pain, but these two times were my only extended periods of time when I felt like a human being.
I also wanted to mention that depending on what state you live in and your insurance company, you may or may not have TMJ coverage. I am blessed that Michigan Blue Cross does have limited TMJ insurance. My splints have all been covered but physical therapy seems only to be covered when my neck pain (arthritis) is also included in the diagnosis (which, by the way, only started to hurt a few hours/days after my TMJ first flared up).
I'm sorry to give you such "bad news," but remember, this is only my opinion from my experiences. You should try other types of TMJ specialists (such as neuromuscular and FJO, etc.) It is very difficult to find TMJ specialists who are truly good, in my experience, and it's rare to find a pain doctor who understands the pain. Ask the pain doctor if he knows how a slipped disk feels like in a back or a knee. Then explain that the pain source is so close to your eyes, nose, throat, ears and major nerves and arteries, and that it affects all of them, and he/she might start to grasp a little bit of what TMJ pain is like. Don't expect him to, though.
I hope and pray that you will find the help you need.