If you’ve been diagnosed with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ, chances are you are experiencing pain in the head, face or jaw. You did not a medical professional to tell you that TMJ is a chronic and rather painful condition that affects millions of people or that the pain can be caused by a variety of medical problems. Problems in the facial area can cause head and neck pain, ear pain, headaches, and a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open.
So now that you’ve been diagnosed, what do you do now?
You can take some matters in your own hands by trying a few things, such as:
Moist Heat. A heat pack or hot water bottle wrapped in a warm moist towel is said to relieve some pain.
On the other hand, ice packs are good, too. They usually decrease inflammation and numb pain and promote healing. Medical professionals warn not to place the ice pack directly on the ski and keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while using it.
A diet of soft foods will work better. This gives the jaw a chance to rest. Doctors say it is important not to stretch your mouth to accommodate chewy foods, especially things like corn on the cob and apples.
Jaw exercises are also good, doctors say. The exercises must be slow and gentle. A health care provider or a physical therapist can evaluate your condition and offer the right exercises.
When some of these home treatments are not all that effective, medical treatment options might be necessary. Some TMJ patients have found success with dental splint, which is a dental appliances placed in the mouth that keeps the teeth in alignment and prevents tooth grinding. (This is usually prescribed because it must be fitted.)
Physical therapy with jaw exercises can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and add a range of motion. In some severe cases, you can talk with your doctor about surgery on the jaw or dental surgery, if that is necessary. Prescription-strength pain medicines, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory medications or steroids may also be necessary in some cases. Ask your doctor if you fit this category.
One of the first things medical personnel suggest is to educate yourself. They say that patients who know what to expect are better able to converse with health care providers, ask pertinent questions, and make an overall knowledgeable decision, especially if the suggestion is surgery of some kind.