I've been dealing with severe TMJ for over a year now and am currently going through recovery post surgery.
Here's a brief history: It took me a while to actually diagnose my problem as TMJ. At first, I was having facial pain and it felt like I had a chronic sinus infection for about 5 months. I did cough up some green stuff every other month, but when I went to the ENT he found no sign of infection (he also ran a CT scan and all of my sinuses were clear). Yet, I was still determined it was a sinus infection and went through a bunch of rituals (neti pot, eating a lot of soup, taking heavy antibiotics, etc.). After about 5 months, I started to gain more symptoms. These symptoms included chronic fatigue, nauseous, vertigo, chronic neck/back/head pain, piercing ear pain, extreme sensitivity to sounds (couldnt go to noisy places, couldn't even watch TV without it bothering me a lot). During this period, I was stuck at home. I couldn't bare to go anywhere. I couldn't drive...so my boyfriend was driving everywhere. I went to the neurologist, and the neurologist immediately diagnosed me with migraines due to my migraine history (I knew it wasn't a migraine though since migraine pain is pretty distinct and I have migraine with aura). The neurologist ordered an MRI to check and see if there was anything wrong in my brain. My brain was ok, but the radiologist found a possible dislocation/derangement with disc/joint. Then I was told to get a TMJ dedicated MRI. They found bone spurs, my meniscus was gone on both sides (or at least not visible), some osteoporosis, displacement of joints, and damaged tissue. I was told I would have to have surgery and prior I would be in a splint in an attempt to stabilize my pain. I was in the splint for about 3 months (didn't work, the ideal was supposed to be 6 months prior to surgery) in addition to narcotics, muscle relaxants, and antiflammatories (none of these really helped me much). So, I had open joint surgery on both sides. They reattached my meniscus on both sides, relocated my joint, and reshaped my joint (took off bone spurs). The doctors told me that my case was a lot worse than they originally thought and said I had a lot of damage. They also said I would never have gotten better without the surgery and it was really needed. I looked at the images they took of my surgery and saw a lot of shredded tissue and my condyle was so smashed up against my face that the tissue over the condyle was bunched up like an accordion.
As for my current health: It's been 7 months post surgery and I'm still experiencing chronic pain and am wearing a full time splint. BUT I am a lot better than I was, and am able to go out and do things. A lot of my symptoms were relieved almost immediately following my surgery. I don't have a problem with vertigo anymore, nauseousness, or sound sensitivity. I am currently experiencing a lot of muscle spasms (doctor said that since my jaw has been relocated to the correct position (and hasn't been there for a long time) that my muscles would be having a hard time adjusting. Well isn't that the truth! I could barely stand to brush my hair post surgery! I am going to school part time and having a hard time coping with the spasms along with stress as they seem to parallel each other.
Question for TMJ sufferers: I am feeling somewhat pessimistic about my recovery as it seems to be coming to a stop (or it is at least incredibly slow!). Is there anyone out there who has been down the same road with TMJ and who can share the length/process of their recovery? The doctor said (after surgery) that I should be back to normal anytime between this current month to two months from now. Yet, I am nowhere near normal. I still have a long way to go.
Side note: I am supposed to have orthognathic surgery after a year of braces (once I get better). The doctor said my orthognathic surgery recovery would be a whole lot better than what I am going through now--and a lot faster.
Yes, I have had a splint on for a year now, made by a tmj specialist (I've actually been under the care of 2 already)....and it's not very effective. My doctor told me that splints aren't going to cure the problem, they are just a therapeutic device. Besides, studies for the effectiveness of splint therapy have been inconsistent.
Effectiveness depends on whether certain criteria are met or not.
1. Comfortable swallowing
2. Relaxation of masseter muscle , neck and shoulder muscles.
3. When you close your mouth very gently, there is no specific heavy contact of any tooth, all teeth contact are very even.
4. No interference of breathing
5. Restorative sleep achieved
The above criteria are essential elements of an effective occlusal appliance.
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