Temporomandibular joint disorders are serious conditions that affect millions of people each year. If you suspect that you’re suffering from a TMJ disorder, then it’s important to slow down and see if you can diagnose yourself. If you believe you are suffering from a TMJ disorder, a visit to a TMJ specialist may be in order.
Often, TMJ disorders start out as minor pain in the face or jaw. Many people may simply try to tough through the pain. However, a TMJ disorder can quickly snowball into a painful condition that could impact your quality of life. For example, you might find yourself struggling to chew or talk.
By paying close attention to your body and the signals it’s sending you, however, you may be able to identify problems before they become serious. As with many medical conditions, timely intervention can be crucial.
Fortunately, there are some key indicators you can watch for. Let’s go over them.
Pay Close Attention to Jaw Pain
Jaw pain is probably the most common TMJ disorder symptom. TMJ disorders are often accompanied by pain in the jaw, especially when you move or use your jaw. So the first thing you should do is check for said pain.
First, slow down and focus on your jaw. Do you feel any pain? Next, open your jaw. Do you feel pain now? If so, is it getting worse? Try slowly shifting your jaw from side to side as well to see if pain occurs or worsens.
If you’re suffering from pain in the jaw, there is a high chance that you are suffering from a TMJ disorder. So do you need to see a specialist? Probably. If the pain doesn’t go away or appears to be worsening, you should schedule an appointment with a TMJ specialist right away.
Pain Can Also Spread Outside of the Jaw
Unfortunately, TMJ disorders are often marked by pain outside of the jaw as well. In fact, pain can spread throughout the face and neck region. The Temporomandibular joint is connected to muscles that in turn stretch across the maxillofacial region. Unfortunately, pain can spread throughout the maxillofacial region.
In fact, TMJ disorders can cause pain in the temples, behind the eyes, and in the ears, among other places. TMJ disorders can even cause headaches. Of course, it’s possible that such pains are being caused by another condition.
If you’re also suffering pain in your jaw, however, it’s quite possible that pain elsewhere is being caused by a TMJ disorder. Even if pain is absent in the jaw, you may still have a TMJ disorder.
There Are Plenty of Less Painful Symptoms
Pain isn’t the only sign that you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder. Another common TMJ disorder symptom is a popping or clicking sound when you open or move your jaw. Head to a quiet place, then slowly move your jaw around. Hear any noises? If so, your temporomandibular joint may be damaged.
Likewise, your jaw could simply lock up, either while it’s open or shut. Muscle spasms, especially around the jaw, may also indicate that you’re suffering from a TMJ disorder. In some cases, you may even suffer hearing loss.
Pay Attention to Comorbid Conditions
Finally, you need to keep your eye open for comorbid conditions, or conditions that frequently occur alongside other conditions. For example, people who suffer from TMJ disorders often experience sleep apnea. A study found that lower back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, interstitial cystitis, and even irritable bowel syndrome, among other conditions, are frequently comorbid with TMJ disorders.
If you are suffering from one of the above conditions you may be at increased risk of suffering from a TMJ disorder. If you’re suffering from a comorbid condition and are exhibiting TMJ disorder symptoms, such as jaw pain, the risks are even greater.
When Do I Need to See a Specialist?
TMJ disorders should not be ignored. They can be very painful and if left untreated, the condition could worsen. If the pain is increasing and your condition is not healing on its own, you should see a medical professional. Likewise, if the pain is interfering with your quality of life, a visit to a specialist is in order.
Unfortunately, TMJ disorders can be caused by a huge range of factors and underlying a condition. This makes treatment difficult. Even medical experts often struggle to properly diagnose and treat TMJ disorders. As is often the case with complex medical conditions, your best bet is usually to see someone who specializes in TMJ disorders.
A specialist will have the hands on experience and necessary medical knowledge to identify the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder. This, in turn, will allow him or her to prescribe the appropriate treatment plan.