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Adrienne Dellwo

TMJ & Fibromyalgia: Starting Treatment for Jaw Pain

By April 23, 2010

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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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TMJ Exercise

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.

Comments
April 23, 2010 at 8:26 am
(1) Brett Zamir says:

I had a strong tension in my jaw for quite a while, seeing my physician, a dentist, and found no answers. Later, when I noticed one of the side effects of Protonix (Pantoprazole), I stopped taking the medicine, and the problem went away. For some of us with fatigue, the added weight gain we may experience from lack of exercise may cause reflux, so this might be one thing to watch out for.

April 23, 2010 at 9:02 am
(2) vicki says:

TMJ is no joke. I’ve had it for 100 years! I remember talking on the phone – I was upset and my jaw just stuck. It causes neck stiffness, headaches, inability to chew sometimes even to.
I have been sleeping in an appliance for 10 years – it helps A LOT. Go to a dentist who treats it and get an appliance made to fit your jaw and teeth!

April 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm
(3) Randy says:

I have FMS and TMJ too. The NightGuard device (kind of like a custom fit retainer) really helps with the pain and grinding. My wife is grateful for that.

I have joint laxity too. I say “joint laxity” or looseness because true hypermobility is some pretty far out stuff. I’ve suffered many sprains and dislocations throughout my teens and early 20′s because of this looseness, and boy am I paying for it now.

April 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm
(4) Susan says:

Check out NTI migraine on Google- my dentist recently fitted me for the night guard that fits over my bottom front teeth and it has really helped in pain in the area above my ears – and helped me not clench my teeth – I have TMJ and chronic headaches – and CFS – maybe FM – and the pain is better

April 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm
(5) kt says:

I agree with the above comment that TMJ is no joke. The pain was so bad I sometimes could barely stand it. If I thought I had to live with that kind of pain the rest of my life, I would not want to live. I couldn’t eat or talk without severe pain. Eating was agony. I have a nightguard also, a hard plastic mouthpiece that fits over my bottom teeth. It does help alot, thank goodness. They are quite expensive, this one was 300.00 dollars.

April 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm
(6) DAVE D says:

I VE HAD FIBROMYLGIA FOR A FEW YEARS AND WAS DIAGNOSED OCT 1,2010 AND WITH ALL WIDESPREAD AND TENDER POINTS,SEVER PAIN ALL JOINTS,MUSCLE,SEVER HEADACHES,MIGRAINES,IRRATIBLE BOWL,BLURED VISION,AND MANY OTHER SYMPTOMS AND INCLUDING SEVER JAW PAIN OF WHICH WAS SO SEVER THAT I DIDNT WANT TO LIVE THE REST OF MY LIFE LIKE THIS.I JUST PRAYED TO GOD TO TAKE ME OUT OF HERE.I KNOW NOW THAT MANY MANY OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE FIBROMYLGIA ARE SUFFERING WITH THESE SAME SYMPTOMS RIGHT ALONG WITH ME.MY REUMATOLOGIST SAID THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE.WHEN YOU ARE SUFFERING ALL YOU THINK OF IS HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO LAST AND HOW MUCH MORE PAIN CAN I INDURE.IN THIS INTENSE DURATION OF TIME,ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE.WE ARE WITH YOU.YOU ARE WITH ME.NO ONE BUT ,BUT NO ONE UNDER STANDS THE PAIN AND SUFFERING THAT WE LIVE WITH ON A DAILY BASIS.I HAVE COMMON KNOWLEDGE OF MANY ILLNESSES AND DESEASES AND I HAVENT EVER CAME UPON ANY THAT CAN COMPARE TO THE AMOUNT OF SYMPTOMS AND THE SEVERARITY OF PAIN TO ULMOST ALL PARTS OF THE BODY AND THE BRAIN FOG FOR WHICH AT TIMES I CANT EVEN CARRY A CONVERSATION,AND HAVE SHORT TERM MEMORY LOSS.I DONT THINK THEIR IS A MORE DEBILITATTING DISEASE THAN FIBROMYLGIA.I BELEAVE WITH ALL MY HEART THAT WE WHO HAVE FIBROMYLGIA ARE THE ONLY ONES ON THIS EARTH THAT REALLY KNOW HOW DEVASTATING AND DIBLITATTING AND PAINFULL THIS DISEASE REALLY IS.JUST WANTED TO MENTION THAT I READ ABOUT A NEW CLINICAL FIBROMYLGIA DIAGNOSTIC PROCEDURE.THE NEW CRITERIA IS TO HELP BETTER TO DIAGNOSE A PATIENT WHO MIGHT HAVE FIBROMYLGIA AND ALSO TO MEASURE THE AMOUNT OF SYMPTOMS AND LEVELS OF PAIN AND THE SYMPTOMS SEVEARITY.I BELIEVE THAT THIS TEST WILL HELP DOCTORS TO DISCOVER IN HALF THE TIME WEATHER A PATIENT IS SUFFERING WITH FIBROMYLGIA AND ALSO MEASURE THE SEVERITY OF OR LEVEL OF SYMPTOMS THAT A PATIENT MAY HAVE.CHECK IT OUT ON http://www.fmnetnews,com.I ALSO JUST WANT TO THANK ABOUT.COM FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING TO HELP PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO SUFFER WITH FIBROMYLGIA AND CHRONIC FATIGUE.THANK YOU ALL FOR ALLOWING US TO COMMENT

SINCERLY,DAVE D

April 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm
(7) Shawna says:

After having sinus surgery, the surgeon told me I have TMJ. At my next dental appointment, I told my dentist and he said the surgeon was full of BS. He was mad about this for some reason and would not discuss it with me. My sister was also told by a dr. that she had TMJ. We have a hereditary trait of loose joints in our family. My sis has blown out both her knees and had to have surgery a few times.
I’m guessing my dentist is wrong. My jaw hurts sometimes but not enough to do anything about it yet. I would have to find a new dentist !!

April 24, 2010 at 5:26 am
(8) Sr Sharon says:

I wish to respond in the affirmative all that Dave D has to say. My life is virtually unbearable most of the time lately no matter what I do or try. My Chinese Massage Therapist, who is the best in the world just keeps my body in a bearable state, along with medications. It is not just the pain and everlasting exhaustion, but the constantly feeling unwell. Praying and hopefully being supportive of those with CFS or FMS give me a positive focus to my life which changed in so many ways.

Thanks for the wonderful site.

April 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm
(9) iOne2BFree says:

You are ALL correct when you say what a WONDERFUL site this is!!
I am SO Grateful to find out over this past year that I’m NOT crazy, NOT a hypochondriac AND that what I suffer from 24/7 is to be taken SERIOUSLY! Thank you ALL for your comments and helping me feel that I actually DO BELONG somewhere!!
And, most of ALL, many THANKS to Adrienne, for without her Expertise, Kindness and Generosity, I Truly do not know if I’d be alive TODAY!!

Again, THANKS to All of You! Please keep UP the communication!!

April 26, 2010 at 12:38 am
(10) C. Allison says:

I am very thankful for Adrienne and this site! I dont know where I would be today w/out it. When I was told 2 years ago that I had Fibro. I had never heard of it. Boy did I feel so alone until I came across this site! It has really helped me to not feel so alone, knowing that other people are going through allot of the same things. A couple of weeks ago my jaw felt like it just “popped” and it hurt. I wasnt eating or chewing gum so I didnt have a clue as to what had happened. The pain stayed with me for about a week (I still have it but not as bad) and my jaw popped a couple more times but I never went to the dentist or Dr. I honestly wondered if it was just in my mind, until I read this artical. Thanks everyone for keeping me sane! (I’ll be making a trip to my dentist!!)

April 26, 2010 at 9:45 pm
(11) Sue says:

It’s interesting that TMJ and fibro go together. I”ve had fibro since I was 20 – it didn’t have a name I was just crazy. I’m 76 now. I was lucky I was dignoised about 25 years ago. The TMJ started over 30 years ago. The dentist discovered I never bit down in the same place twice. I was banded to stretch my mouth and they had a lot of crowns to build the bit in place. It has been very sucessful, but was it expensive. Recently I’ve has some problems which the chiropractor fixed. You never know where help will come from.

April 27, 2010 at 8:54 am
(12) Rachel says:

I started jaw pain about 6 months ago. There are times I eat ice cream for dinner. I am waiting for the insurance to cove the night guard. The dentist can not use the term TMJ when filing with the insurance company. so before your dentist files for th mouth guard have them check. hey can use “teeth grinding” and “clenching teeth”

April 28, 2010 at 9:35 am
(13) greybeh says:

Adrienne, the bite guard is the way to go. I like that mine is fit on my bottom jaw. I understand that it is less intrusive for some people that way, and I adjusted to it quickly. I have an awful, awful gag reflex.

If you get one, start wearing it in the evening… before bed. Get used to it while you’re awake, not while you’re trying to fall asleep! It’s never ideal to introduce something new right before bedtime.

Also, I started with the soft plastic one, but it was throwing away money for me. I am a SEVERE grinder, even tho I take muscle relaxants at night. Protonix certainly may be contributing!!! I have the hard plastic one, and will get more use out of it. The soft plastic… I chewed a hole in it about a year after I got it. It also flattened out and didn’t grip my teeth as well after awhile.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re getting a sore spot or if it feels like there’s a spot that’s going to irritate you when you’re fitted. The dentist can grind a bit. Sometimes their mold gets chipped and so it’s not initially a perfect fit. Speak up. Even if you get it home and find there’s a spot that’s irritated in your mouth that wasn’t before. The dentist usually has a time period where he can order a re-make or grind it down a bit.

I think this was a good investment to protect my teeth. I’m still grinding a bit but my jaw doesn’t tire as easily, it’s not as achy, I have fewer headaches and I do believe I haven’t had ear pain since I got my newest device (the hard plastic one).

These may need to be replaced after some time if you’re a persitant/major grinder… but think of all the $ you save on dental work. If you want to convince yourself, do some research on the internet about the effects of teeth grinding. Sorry to be so blunt but I really had to talk myself into it and I feel I made a great choice.

Good luck, Adrienne.

November 12, 2010 at 8:44 am
(14) TMJ Home Remedies says:

i agree with the comments. and i also believe that if symptoms appear immediately see a doctor for advice and do home remedies for TMJ to lessen the pain and for relief.

February 4, 2011 at 12:44 am
(15) Ruthie. says:

I’VE BEEN without bottom teeth for over 20 yrs.,now im experienceing a lot of jaw and ear pain. I do have Fibromyalgia as well.
would having no bottom teeth cause TMJ or is it just the Fibro????
thank you

January 25, 2012 at 7:08 am
(16) Penny says:

Thanks for the article and all the comments of people suffer these strange illness. i had tmj and suspects also have fibro, it disturb my daily life very much that i often think of surgery (minimal invasive one, not open surgery) but at the same time afraid it will go worse after surgery as what i often read. I tried all the conservative ways, splints, nti, physiotherapy, muscle relaxant, pain killers, accupunctures, they help a little but not enough.
For someone with tmj (caused by laxity) and fibromyalgia, will tmj arthroscopy help?

March 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm
(17) Nancy Allen says:

The function of the jaw has profound effects on the function of the nervous system. Please look at the videos of patients at http://www.tmjstack.com. This is the site of a craniofacial expert,a dentist.
Observe how many symptoms of these patients overlap with fibromyalgia. Yes, FM is a devastating disorder. My friend went through 2 cancers, radiation, and chemo. She is now well,but I am still too disabled to work or even get to the store on most days. We can’t give up.

April 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm
(18) Sarah says:

hi to all. I have hms, firbromyalgia, and chronic bursitis, and now I am presented with a possible tmj diagnosis. Highly possible. I must say I am at wits end. Everyone looks at me like i’m faking or its all in my imagination. They have no idea what I go through everyday and how much I fight to make it through the work day still on my two feet (which might not be possible for me to bear much longer). Have any of you been able to get disability for your conditions, I fear this is my only option. In desperate need of some advise and people who understand. My possible tmj is more due to my hms and is causing ice pick migraines preceded by an almost drugged feeling similiar to vertigo. Not to mention the pressure in my ears. Been on and off of work for the last two years due to my conditions and surgeries to fix some of the effects of my disorders. aside from physical therapy which does nothing for me but make me hurt more. Any suggestions?

May 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm
(19) ann says:

I had TMJ pain for 9 months and had gone to a physical therapist for 3. He would use heat, acupuncture, exercises and manipulation. However, he suggested I ask my doctor to prescribe amitryptalin, and he discussed it with the doctor. The first night I took 3 tablets (10 mg), and the next morning the pain was gone. (That is a very small dose, just enough to take me under the sleep period where dreaming usually occurs. A therapeutic dose is 150 mg, so I did not have to worry about ill effects.) It makes my mouth a little dry, but I have been using it for a year now and the TMJ has not returned.

May 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm
(20) Steve Carter says:

I don’t see anyone mentioning having tried CranioSacral Therapy. It is Excellent for TMJ issues, very soothing in general, and good for fybromyalgia.

Feel free to take a look at my website, and/or contact me through the website.

October 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm
(21) Anne Batten-Thomas says:

I have always been extremely hypermobile and at the age of 66 am still classed as extreme. I have had chronic pain since my late 30s and was only diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 5 yrs ago. I am now experiencing TMJ problems.

December 4, 2012 at 1:54 am
(22) Cheryl says:

Hello, It was good to read about TMJ. Not opening my mouth very wide I first had experienced. I mentioned it to my dentist and she said there’s a lady specializing in TMJ and should see her. I haven’t b/c I understood about the mouth piece you wear and if it helps. My chiro said he helps others and I let him show me. It was very very painful to his maniupulations to the muscle on the side of my mouth saying it was very tight. When I hear muscle I say “why not” I have Fibro! Yet this treatment he did hurt for two months and couldn’t think to do it again. Now in the past week I have a clicking. I am advancing I say. Oh great now which person do I see? The chiro or the TMJ specialist? I need to do something. It was good to read yr feedbacks. The night guard doesn’t sound so bad. I have deep pain otherwise thru my body and it leads to a deep going down to basement feeling depression worsening on each step down. I do take depresssion med, anxiety med, Ibuprophen, and muscle relaxer as needed. But at the actual moment this depression is occurring I wished someone was with me. Or I could talk to so not to go so deep downward. I was in Silver Sneakers excersing and felt the pain before I arrived and at times during it it worsen and the tears came down my face. I felt embarrased. I had a car accident over a yr ago and a concussion. I don’t remember the accident for I was out. It has flared my Fibro and makes me sad. I was doing much better before the accident and now I am trying to start over again. It grieves me greatly so when pain intensifies my grief and depression do also. I have talked to my arthritis doc and about Lyrica I am on yet still feel alone in this. Anyone have comments I greatly appreciate hearing them. Cheryl

February 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm
(23) Nancy allen says:

Cheryl, We all appreciate what you are going through. Try to find a progressive support group near you- one that focuses on healing.

May 4, 2013 at 12:21 am
(24) Joanne says:

I don’t really have jaw pain. My problem with my jaw is more that it “goes out of whack.” I will just be walking along and it will just spontaneously dislocate and I end up biting my tongue so hard it bleeds or the side of my mouth. Does anyone else have this problem?

May 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm
(25) claire says:

I suffer with severe HMS/eds, my jaw dislocated weeks ago was out 4 days til swelling went down, then made it able for me to relocate, extremely painful, but still painful now, visit to my Dr or consultant is a must, but I will try ice packs in need of any pain relief possible.

May 21, 2013 at 7:28 pm
(26) karen says:

hi iv had tmj for 11 years and have tried splint after splint rubber and hard and grinded through them all at present i have botox injections every 4 months to deaden every muscle in my face and temples/ head and my jaw dislocates on a regular basis like every 2/3 days had all the physio tablets and exercises in the book i think been to see every doc and now i think my surgeon is losing the will to live also it is very painful and i do feel for u all

October 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm
(27) Bridget says:

Though I would not wish Fibromyalgia on my worst enemy, its nice to know I’m not alone. However, I DO have an “alone” area. I don’t have the money or resources that others on here have for massage therapy, mouth guards, etc. that could help. I live in excurating pain 24/7 and NOTHING can relieve it. I take tylenol mixed with chronic fatigue, and force myself to stay awake in pain, to take care of my children and home. I have meds for anxiety disorder, but can’t take anything but tylenol for pain. Tylenol just makes me tired but barely takes the edge off the pain. I’m glad that others have the ability and resources to help them. I just wish I had the same.

November 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm
(28) Aggie says:

Been in agony for 2 weeks now ? TMJ cant open my mouth to get food in! is my ear my teeth my jaw not sure bloody hurts

December 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm
(29) Marigold says:

Help! I’m so miserable with pain. Diagnosed by 3 different docs with FMS but because my gyno said she didn’t believe in it I kept getting different tests run. She said its a term doctors use when they don’t know what’s wrong. I was determined to find out what causes me pain all the time. So after thousands of dollars I’ll accept its FMS. My tmj pain is out of control! My dentist made me a splint 2 years ago and I’ve replaced it once, wear it every night and during the day. Dentist has given me norco but I feel like I need something to take all the time. Suggestions?
Tried lyrica and cymbalta both made me exhausted and depressed with no easing of pain. Valiums good but makes me grumpy and tired. Norco helps but it’s a narcotic and I’m scared to ask. Suggestions?

January 19, 2014 at 9:08 am
(30) Gracie says:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a traumatic physical event in Feb 2011. I was given a drug that I have a lethal allergy to. My doc didn’t check my chart and gave me Augmentin which has the allergen penicillin in it. I almost died. I was rushed to the ER, spent 4 days in the hospital and then shortly after release started to have all these physical symptoms. I had horrible pain in my neck shoulders etc. Just about 3 weeks ago I started having TMJ symptoms. I am in pain and it feels like all my teeth are infected. I want to know what is the best treatment for TMJ. I am allergic to all kinds of meds. I assume that the therapy is physical and some kind of appliance has to go in my mouth.
Any ideas out there would be helpful.
BTW…I have hypothyroidism and a strain of mono that is in my blood and cannot be cured. The same doctor that screwed up never told me about the mono until this happened. She also told me that my thyroid was normal in spite of surgery removing all but a tiny piece. I fired her and have a new doc and am on natural armour thyroid and bio-identical hormone.
I suffer daily because of misdiagnosis and I know that this is very common. TMJ is just one of the results of this.
Maybe this story sounds familiar to you.
Gracie

February 20, 2014 at 8:12 pm
(31) Brenda says:

I have both TMJ & fibro. I had the mouthpiece made & the treatments for jaw, neck, & head pai. I wear the mouthpiece faithfully at night but not during the day. It seemed the tensing was wonderful for the neck pain for a while now the jaw continues to pop out, the neck & head pain are back. Is there any other treatment out there?

March 25, 2014 at 11:31 am
(32) Aggie says:

I have TMJ and wear a night guard at night. I also have neck pain. I have taken steroids, muscle relaxers, have had radio frequency ablation 6 times, and also trigger point shots. These did not seem to work, but a month ago, I received botox shots in my neck and this really seems to ease the pain….the next time the Dr. will inject them closer to my jaw.

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