EIGHT. When a new patient comes to my office for treatment of their TMJ symptoms, the average number of health care professionals that they have seen prior to me is eight. These include, but are not limited to: Primary Care Physicians, Neurologists, ENT’s, Message Therapists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Cranial Sacral Therapists, Acupuncturists, Gastroenterologists, Cardiologists, Yoga Therapists, Podiatrists, Audiologists, Exercise Physiologists, Nutritionists, Physiatrists and many, many other types of body workers with acronyms like ART Therapists, FC Practioners and A Train Specialists just to name a few.
Why is it that the average TMJ patient, who has gone to so many different types of doctors and therapists, still receives little to no relief of their symptoms?
I believe it is because there are so many different types of symptoms that a patient with primary TMJ can present with. It is difficult for any one health care professional to have the expertise in the diverse disciplines required to come up with a unified system to diagnose and treat a multi-factorial disease such as TMJ.
Some patients present with muscular symptoms, like headaches, migraines, neck aches, back aches and shoulder aches.
Some patients present with structural symptoms, like hip pain, constipation, cramping, knee pain, ankle pain, foot pain and gait (walking) pathology.
Some patients present with neurological symptoms, like numbness down the arms, tingling in their fingers or toes, sciatic pain radiating down one leg, trigeminal neuralgia (also known as Bells Palsy), Tourette’s Syndrome (involuntary muscle movements) or difficulty concentrating and impairment of cognitive (thinking) functions.
Some patients present with ear symptoms, like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), full or stuffy or itchy ears and vertigo or balance problems.
Some patients present with endocrine/hormonal symptoms, like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, profuse sweating, nervousness or depression.
Some patients present with cardiac symptoms, like high blood pressure or increased incidence of stroke.
Some patients present with gastrointestinal (stomach) problems, like GERD, heart burn, pain in chest and esophageal reflux disorders.
Some patients present with airway problems, like snoring, sleep apnea, difficulty breathing through their nose, ADD and ADHD, restless leg syndrome and daytime sleepiness.
Some patients present with dental problems, like grinding teeth, popping and clicking of the jaw joints, jaw locking open or closed, crooked teeth, gaps between the teeth, loose teeth, facial asymmetry and an unstable bite.
All of these symptoms and more can be classified as problems associated with TMJ.
Now, that is not to say that in every case, each of the problems mentioned above is caused by TMJ. The above list just demonstrates how diverse the symptoms of TMJ can be, and how confusing it can be as a health care practitioner to even diagnose it, let alone treat a disease that has so many different symptoms associated with it.
And, if it is that hard for a professional to diagnose it, just think how frustrating it can be for a patient, who has many diverse symptoms, and has been to many doctors and therapists, and no one can tell them what their problem is or how to fix it?
Well, that is what this blog is for.
My job is to take the complex science of diagnosis and treatment for Temporomandibular Disorders and Craniofacial Pain, and to try to make it easy to understand for those who suffer from it or know others who do.
Stay tuned to upcoming blog posts as we journey together to dispel the myths and uncover the mysteries of treating TMJ...
PS: If you have any questions about symptoms you may have, feel free to leave a comment below and I will try to address them in future blogs.
- Dr. Scott Tamura