Seeing a competent tmj specialist is advised.Your current condition is probably disc displacement with reduction or anchored disc phenomenon.Early intervention generally yields promising result. Chronic pain associated with tmj may be under medical coverage.
"Taking Control of TMJ" by Robert Uppgaard DDS (paperback- $15.00 and can be read fairly quickly) has many suggestions for treating the discomfort. Some info is obvious, but other suggestions are quite good.
I've found that massaging various trigger points can greatly help reduce the pain and spasms. For me, the SCM- running from behind lower ear and around side of neck to base of neck ESPECIALLY can have a lot of tightness and trigger points that when massaged will loosen the jaw joints enough to relieve the excruciating pain. Same thing with the muscles directly over the ear toward the temples and the muscles below cheekbones along jawline.
It does take practice and a gentle touch to learn how to feel for the spots, but it's worth the effort. At first, it's easy to dismiss this trigger point treatment- but there IS something to it.
For pain, icepack will numb the nerves in the jaw joint area enough to give you some relief, and reduce some pain after eating. Heat didn't help me. If you can take anti-inflams (Advil, Motrin or Aleve) it might help reduce the joint inflammation. The muscle relaxers could help if you clench or grind at night while asleep.
A doctor who treats Oral-Facial Pain is one suggestion. There are several listed in the Bay Area via this search.
This is also a good link for some basic info:
I've seen a few TMJ specialists, and they all appear to have their own idea of how to cure this condition. One TMJ dentist told me I'd have to wear a guard for a few months ($600) followed by braces ($3000-5000.00) or have crowns made. This didn't include his office visit charges that were $$$. This guy also wanted to run multiple tests that included an expensive MRI.
Since the MRI is the gold standard test for seeing what's going on with the jaw joint, I had no problem with that but his course of treatment scared me a bit. Figure between 500-700 for the MRI unless you have access to cheaper testing.
I've seen a doctor from the link above. There are codes that can be used for insurance purposes that don't indicate TMJ, but facial pain instead- which is usually covered by medical insurance (but ask the office about this). He ordered the MRI and advised after reviewing the test results that arthroscopic surgery would be best, but physical therapy could be tried. There are pt's that treat jaw joint issues- some are really good and some aren't. I've learned that it's a hit and miss thing with TMJ and it's cost me a lot of money.
You really can't proceed until you know exactly what the condition of the joint/s is...if there is nothing more than muscles causing the problem, then you can likely avoid surgery. If the joint itself has some issues, then things get more complicated for you. Prompt diagnosis is important they say because if caught quickly and treated right away the outcome is more favorable.
This is one area of medicine that has a lot of quacks and a lot of opportunists looking to make a quick buck. The best thing you can do is be well informed of exactly what your condition is (probably through MRI) so that you can search-out the appropriate treatment and not be taken advantage of by anyone.
It seems to come down to doctors/dentists who believe in neuro-muscular dentistry (myotronics) and those who don't. I think there is a muscular component that has to be addressed, but I'm skeptical about the dentists I've seen who are fanatics about this method. I do agree with the conclusion that jaw surgery should be the last resort only after trying other therapy.
While suffering through the "locked" phase, puree your food with one of those hand held blenders to avoid activating your pain further. Soft foods only (applesauce, smooth soups, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, yogurt are least likely to cause spasms/pain). Once the locked phase is relieved, you must slowly start exercising the joint to prevent adhesions from forming and further limiting your range of motion (open and close and side to side).
Best of luck.
Did it ever go away? I have had a locked jaw for 4 weeks as well and when I read your description I thought it was me speaking! Seriously! I went to the TMJ specialist and he gave me motrin and told me to do jaw exercises to try to open it, just try to open it by yourself...Going to the TMJ specialist is basically the same thing as being with my mother, she had already told me that but instead i had to pay for the specialist. Anyway, he told me that if it didn't open by next week he'd put anesthesia in my muscles and see if that relaxes them, if that doesn't work then he'd put an IV in me and try to yank it open himself. Basically he just said to open it by myself and 'if there's no pain there's no gain' since the jaw can't be broken, so don't be scared of doing any damage.
He also told me to put a hot towel on my jaw before I try to open it along with taking the motrin 15 minutes beforehand.
So there, I just saved you the consultation for the TMJ specialist.
Me to already 4weeks now my since my jaw locked. Its very painfull :(