Jun 4, 2003

Memorial day weekend (and the following week) were absolutely nightmarish. There have only been a few periods in my life that could compare. Anyway, before it started (the Fri before Memorial Day) I talked to a friend, and pretty much did a self-diagnosis of what my ailment has been for the past 7 years. (Gee, all my major afflictions seem to last 7 years....coincidence?) This ear fullness/pressure that I've learned to live with has never been diagnosed. I've been to ENTs, neurologists, allergists, general physicians, chiropractors, etc but no ONE ever told me it could possibly be TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder). Most of them told me it was in my head. All I ever heard was my hearing was perfect, my sinuses clear, no wax buildup, no fluid behind the ear drum, no known allergies, etc....

Yet, I found out that my HMO will pay a small amount for treatment of TMJD, so I made an appointment. A flick of hope rose within me. Perhaps I would be able to hear normally again before I die! The prospect excited me. I mean, I had all the classic symptoms (after doing extensive research and reading on the disorder, and joining a bb where fellow sufferers talk, support each other, and all that). I don't know when my jaw started to click and pop, but it did. It doesn't do it all the time, but it does it enough. Then on Friday, a flare-up came upon me...BAD. The pressure in my ears increased to a very uncomfortable level, and I went home early so that I could stop at Walmart and pick up several things to try and treat it. But everything got worse. I took Laura to see my family over the holiday, but I spent much of the weekend sleeping and fretting over the increased discomfort and pain. My jaw felt heavy and tired, and just ached. All the muscles in my neck and face were tense. My tongue was sensitive and I couldn't even manage to eat bread without it acting up. My eyes hurt, my sinuses were clogged (something I've been dealing with for years now) and then I became very dizzy, and went through some spells of vertigo. Laura, thankfully, enjoyed visiting with my family and she was also able to drive my car back to Madison because I simply could not (she learned the stick shift fast!). I was home for a week. Absolutely miserable. I went to urgent care, they (as I expected) didn't do anything and said perhaps I had a virus. WHATEVER. Why are MD's so ignorant of TMJD? It pisses me off to no end. And then ENT's supposedly have 3-4 additional years of school after med school, and yet they STILL can't pick up on this? I mean, not one of them even gave me a MRI to check for joint damage, tumors, cysts, or nerve damage. Gee, I'm not a doctor yet even I knew that all ear disorders weren't caused by ear infections, fluid build up, or excessive wax. DUH.

Then I called around to all the chiropractors in my HMO network, and one of them actually took some time to talk to me about TMJD. He said he has worked with patients of TMJD before, and would do his best to help me. So far, after 3 visits, things have gotten better. My jaw was swingingly (dramatically, I might add) to the left. My cervical was all wrong (as it is every time I go to a chiro..I don't know what I do but any little movement seems to put my neck out of whack). My chiro also uses trigger point therapy which seems to be helping, not to mention this little device I've never seen that helps to push my jaw back into place in a gentle manner. He also told me that along with splint therapy or whatever the TMJD specialist had in mind, I should (hopefully) find relief.

Well, I was able to move my appointment with the specialist up to Monday (from Thursday). I filled out a bunch of paperwork describing my symptoms, pain levels, pain locations, etc. The doctor was very kind, and since she is a fellow sufferer of TMJD, she seemed to actually care about what was going on. She confirmed my suspicions, and we did impressions so that a splint would be made to help me prevent from clenching at night and when I'm stressed. I will get it Friday. And boy, I hope it helps.

Last Friday the vertigo went away and things cleared up a bit. I was feeling almost normal (except for the now-standard ear pressure) on Monday when I went to my appointments. Yesterday, however, things got bad again. No vertigo and no heavy jaw, but the ear pressure and the muscles spazing were almost too much to bear. I stuck it out at work though. Now I'm hoping today I will be able to remain relaxed, calm, and that my little heat patch, chamomile/spearmint tea and breathing exercises will help me today. I'm getting really sick of tiger balm and Hall's cough drops to help "open" me up. So we'll see.

So many people thing TMJD is just a "clenching" problem, or think it's like "oh, my leg hurts". Nooo...this is a serious disorder with no cure, and millions of people suffer from it. But the ignorance is unfathomable, not only in society, but also in the medical field. I don't get it! Why don't MD's treat this? Why dont' HMO's pay for this? This is just like having a bad joint or nerve problem/muscle spasm in your wrist, or your knee....and it is very painful. And it's in your face, for crying out loud. Try concentrating on work and whatever else you have to do when you have all that crap going on right inside of your head. It's not easy.

Well, I did receive a blessing of the sick, that I be patient, but that I WILL be healed, but through my faith and also by the hands of professionals, and that I must learn about this disorder, that I might be able to help those others who suffer from it, and have the necessary compassion/empathy to be able to really understand what they are going through. Gee, my whole life seems to be like this. That I'm being prepared to help others. It makes me wonder why I never felt the desire/need to be in the medical field. Oh well. We'll see what happens.

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