Many people who have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) will tell you that getting to the point of a diagnosis – and proper treatment – is often a long road. This is largely because TMD symptoms often disguise as other problems, or the medical professional who is examining the patient simply isn’t familiar with TMD and its many manifestations.
This is a major and unfortunate problem for the millions of people who suffer from TMD. Living with the painful symptoms that can interfere with personal and professional life can be difficult and in some cases, downright debilitating.
Is it TMD – Or Something Else?
Awareness of TMD and its symptoms is an important step toward getting patients a quicker diagnosis and much-needed treatment. We need laypeople and medical professionals alike to recognize that TMD often looks like other conditions and is much more than jaw pain.
Because we treat TMD every day, we at MedCenter TMJ are extremely aware of all of the possible symptoms of this complex condition – and unfortunately, see many patients who have tolerated these symptoms for months or even years because other practitioners told them there was nothing wrong with them or treated them for the wrong condition.
Here are some of the most common TMD symptoms that look like other issues, and that often result in months or even years of misdiagnosis:
Earaches: An earache is, obviously, thought to originate in the ear. Many times, this is the case. But, ongoing earaches with no ear infection or other ear problem are often a sign of TMD. The close proximity of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the ear mean that pain can easily transfer and radiate from the jaw to the ear.
Headaches: As dentists limited to treating orofacial pain, we know that headaches are an extremely complex condition that can have a myriad of causes. Many people with TMD are diagnosed with stress or tension headaches or even migraines. And while they may, in fact, have these types of headaches, the underlying cause of TMD is often never explored. TMD and headaches have a close relationship: one can cause the other, and other factors such as illness, allergies, stress, and even food and drink can play a significant role. Ongoing headaches are not normal, and if your headache treatment isn’t working for you, find out if your TMJ could be involved.
Neck or back pain: If your neck or back hurts, you might think you have tense muscles or need a new mattress. This is entirely possible – but if your TMJ is also involved, getting a massage or a new bed will only temporarily mask the issue. When the TMJ is inflamed, irritated, or out of alignment, the neck and back pain could recur again and again, regardless of other measures you take to make it stop.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about TMD is that it will “just go away on its own.” This is often not the case! Living with this condition for months while you wait for it to disappear is far too long to wait. You deserve the right diagnosis and treatment options that work for you. Contact MedCenter TMJ to find out how we can help!