Living with TMJ Disorder

Will Leffert Personal

Do you have TMJ disorder? Do you have friends or family who do?

Here’s a story about living with TMJ disorder.

Like many illnesses, everybody experiences different symptoms with TMJ disorder. Many of the people I know personally who suffer from TMJ disorder tend to deal with just a few simple symptoms; clicking of the jaw, occasional pain from overexertion, etc.

Some people, such as myself, experience a wider range of symptoms.

For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a mild episode. High muscle tension in my jaw, which radiates throughout my neck and shoulder on my left side, increasing my general pain level, which then increases the muscle tension, ad nauseum.

I’ve had worse. I have days, sometimes months-long periods where I’m in insufferable pain, unable to eat solid food, barely able to focus on anything, and awake for days at a time.

This time, management was relatively simple, even though it is taking a few days to get taken care of. Here’s how I did it:

First, my GP gave me 2 prescriptions: One, an emergency 4 day (8 day if I don’t take it at night) of Prednisone. Prednisone is a miracle drug for many living with TMJ disorder (and/or arthritis, of which I’m dealing with both). If I take it for just a few days, and am not dealing with more than my baseline pain, I actually feel normal. No pain. I can walk without a cane. I can eat a steak.

It does have issues, though. Long term usage has some serious side effects, and it also prevents me from sleeping at night.

So, I only take it as-needed. I only have the one dose; now that I’ve used it, I can’t get another one. My GP doesn’t feel comfortable with prescribing Prednisone willy-nilly, and I don’t blame him.

My second prescription is for Tizanadine; This is more commonly known as Zanaflex, a muscle relaxer.

I’m prescribed for up to 6mg 3x per day, taken as needed. I typically just take 4mg at night during my normal pain levels, just because of the risk to my liver. I’ve also quit drinking while taking it, just because of the side effects.

This time, I took the full 6mg at night for a few nights, and 4mg in the morning and afternoon (6mg tends to knock me out). It’s not great, but it does help a bit.

Last night, however, I also took something else.

I was originally given a prescription for Baclofen, instead of Tizanadine; Baclofen is another muscle relaxer. I tried taking it regularly, but it knocks me out so hard that I can’t work. It makes my entire body weak, to the point I can barely brush my teeth my arm strength is so low.

Baclofen, though, is what I needed. Since it’s the weekend, and I didn’t need to get up early, I popped it and slept for 10 hours straight, no grinding throughout the night.

I woke up feeling very weak, but my jaw was better. It’s still tender, but I’ll make it.

This is what I deal with living with TMJ disorder.

It isn’t the worst, but it’s not exactly comfortable.

In January I’ll be going to a pain management specialist to hopefully find a better solution. One where I can function on a day-to-day basis without being in constant pain. One where I can safely smile for extended periods.