Like most people with fibromyalgia, my list of diagnoses just keeps growing. My latest one is temporomandibular joint disorder, better known as TMJ. I got the diagnosis several months ago, and after some false starts and insurance issues, I finally got in this week to see a specialist.
He's recommending a conservative treatment plan, which is fine by me. I've started doing a special stretching exercise he showed me, and in 3 weeks he'll check to see if the muscles are loosening up. At that point he'll decide whether to make me a hard device that I'll wear on my upper teeth at night, which will help stabilize things and prevent my bruxism (teeth grinding) from continuing to aggravate my jaw. He says the device is likely, but he wants the muscles looser than they currently are before he designs it. (Of course, the fibro is keeping those muscles hard and tight to the best of its abilities.)
Something I thought was especially interesting was that I've noticed the range of motion in my jaw decreasing a lot. However, according to his measurements, it's well within the normal range. I've written before about joint hypermobility (double jointedness) and how it's believed to be a fibro risk factor, possibly because the loose joint constantly causes minor injury to the muscles and connective tissues around it. After the appointment, I started wondering if there was a connection, and sure enough -- studies do show a relationship. Other possibilities exist, and you can learn about them here, along with symptoms, treatments and more:</p>
Do you have TMJ or similar jaw problems? Do you (or did you) also have joint hypermobility? What TMJ treatments have you tried, and how did they work? How does TMJ impact your life? Leave your comments below! And if you want to know more about the stretch I'm doing, click on "more" down below to see the instructions.
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Photo © A.D.A.M.
This is not an endorsement or recommendation of this exercise. Check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise or treatment regimen.
- Use ice OR heat on each side of the face. Make sure to cover your temple, cheek, jaw joint, and corner of the jaw by your ear. Apply for 5 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes, then apply for 5 more minutes.
- Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders as much as possible.
- Open your mouth COMFORTABLY (don't stretch!).
- Put your index finger on your bottom front teeth and then roll it onto its side.
- Put your thumb between your index finger and top teeth.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then remove fingers and relax WITHOUT LETTING YOUR TEETH COME TOGETHER.
- Repeat 20 times.
My doctor said I should start seeing improvements within 10 days, but he wants me to do the stretch once a day for 8 weeks.