Monday, January 9, 2017

The joke’s on one of us, TMJ... but I’d rather it be on you than me


The other night an old friend wrote me a very kind letter, said he’d been catching up on things with me through my blog and was sorry about the TMJ. 

I’ve known him for 10 years, but we never met in person; we met online through a comic book message board we both frequented.  I stopped contributing there a few years ago, but we’ve stayed connected over the years (ahem, Facebook) and his letter brought back a lot of good memories.  So much so, that he put me in the mood to read some old comics, so I went on Read Comics Online (an awesome, awesome website filled with new & vintage comic books to read—for free!) and was perusing an old Batman comic from the 1970s when I came across a disturbing panel showing one of the Joker’s victims.  Hit with poisonous gas, the poor man collapses to the floor—he’s dead as a doornail, but not before the gas twists the muscles in his face into a creepy, maniacal grin.  You gotta see it to believe it.

jokers poison gas


Yep, this is what us kids were reading in the 1970s

As I’m sitting here reading this crazy-ass story while gently massaging the sides of my face and lower jaw—my own facial muscles sore and swollen from this freaking TMJ—I slowly tried to mimic this dude’s sick grin.  Not just a smile, but a big Joker-grin.  There was a soft, palpable “crackling” sound in the muscles on both sides of my face and my eyes widened and I quickly dropped the sides of my mouth.  But for the first time in many a moon, I felt some small, brief relief.   I did it again, counted to 15—relaxed.  Again, some relief.

Doug, sorry you’re suffering—but why are you sharing this?  Um…. in case there’s someone out there with atrophied muscles in their face like mine?  I dunno, I just feel the need to vent, rant, whatever.  I’m still in disbelief that my jaw got so out of whack this past summer, or that it would last this long.  I’ve spent many nights reading up on temporomandibular jaw disorder and the only thing I know for certain is that no one REALLY knows how to fix it.  (There’s plenty of neuromuscular dentists out there who say they can, and even more TMJ sufferers insisting they can’t.)  Oral surgeons recommend steroid or Botox injections into the joints, or surgery (naturally) but the official TMJ website sternly warns against such treatments and says they can cause irreversible damage that will last a lifetime.  It adds that 4 out of 5 sufferers will heal on their own, you just have to give it plenty of time. 

So I’m doing just that, consoling myself with the words of a retired oral surgeon who looked at mine and said “yours is fairly severe, but still on the low end of the spectrum for surgery.”   So for the time being, I’m just going to continue with the exercises shown me (from a very kind physical therapist & friend of my sister Shawn) and wear my big oral splint to bed every night & remain optimistic. 

I could say that at the very least this TMJ has given me something to smile about… but that would be crazy!

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