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April 14, 2023

Lessons learned from my TMJ pain syndrome

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.

I was always that kind of person who figures about things too late.

At high school I was the last to figure if someone liked me. So late that the person already gave up on me when I figured they like me.

At 32 I figured it’s time to learn to drive. Then I figured it’s so stressful with my adult ADHD that I started to grind my teeth from the tension I store in my body (another thing I am great at…). And I just figured I did this my whole life but it never got this bad.

I had an appointment with a surgeon today because of the pain in my jaw muscles became unbearable. He said my jaw muscles are so tensed they feel like a bone, he never saw this happening with someone who had such good teeth as I do, and I don’t even like chewing gum. Apparently, being addicted to chewing gum can cause such severe jaw muscle inflammation, or losing most of your teeth.

In a while, this was the first time that I was grateful for my yoga teacher training (as a non-practicing yoga teacher). My training helped me to realize that the moment I became stressed, my shoulders and neck would tense up, then it creeps into my jaw  and because of the misalignment in posture, my muscles would overexert and become pretty immobile, my chin jutts forward into space. I can really feel how the muscles in my neck and shoulders and in my jaw are working really hard just to hold up the weight of my head and keep my jaw in the right place.

The whole thing made worse by the fact that I, just as everyone else spend too much time in front of my laptop or staring at my phone screen – in the wrong posture,

My surgeon sent me to a specialist, I’m waiting for my appointment. Until that time comes, I already built in some targeted elements into my daily routine – extra added neck, shoulder and face yoga to relieve stress, face massage, hypnosis, acupressure, red light therapy, breath work… and of course, the only pain killer that works for me, which is as strong as a horse’s kick.

I’m more aware of my posture and retract it every time I catch myself in misalignment, and started to pull my chin back (resulting in a very nice double chin) but it still hurts as f*ck at times. (Imagine a sudden pain in your face, like someone pierced a knife into it, waking you up in the middle of the night…)

On a mental level, a book called “You can heal your life”  from Louise L. Hay helped me a lot. If you don’t know who Louise Hay is, she’s a spiritual healer, author, speaker and activist who believed that we can heal our body by tending to mental thought patterns that are not serving us. She believes that, “Both the good in our lives and the dis-ease are the results of mental thought patterns that form from our experiences.”

Causes of symptoms according to Louise Hay is a good place to start if you are looking for healing. Illness however mild or severe is an indicator of your emotional state, caused by your thoughts and focus. Louise’s book is a very good introduction into true self development, but its really a first step. If you really want to heal yourself or your life, you need to start with the basics such as You can heal your life .

According to Louise, jaw problems are a result of anger, resentment and frustration.

Looking beyond the purely physical causes of jaw pain, stress and anxiety play a big role in the onset of jaw pain. In a recent study by the National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery they found, “Stress is a significant etiologic* factor involved in initiation and maintenance of TMDs in Dental students.” *[causing or contributing to the development of a disease or condition]

A brilliant bodyworker and author, Emily A Francis, in her book, The Body Heal Itself says, “The jaws are the storage space for old pains, anguish, shame and anger.” She goes on to explain that words that felt hurtful and words never said (that needed to be said) can get stored in the jaw.

This makes a whole lot of sense. While the whole time I was blaming my driving lessons for my TMJ pain, I had to admit, that the whole situation I am in resulted in this. And the situation is that I had to come back to my home country as this is the easiest way to get a driving license. Because of my ADHD the express course can’t be so quick as I can’t focus for a maximum amount of 4 hours, 5 times a day (that’s the limit one can drive as a learner) so the originally 1 months practical course is in its 3rd month, add the extra one I had to wait for my theory exam before I am allowed to take practical classes and my failed first test and voila! The originally planned 2 months long stay is now extended to 5, while a lot of family issues are coming up daily mainly because of my lifestyle choices (not having a “proper” job, money, old wounds etc.) Add some loneliness into the equation because I have no friends left and the fact that there’s nothing to do nearby (I’m from a secluded village).

And the biggest problem: the jaw is about communication. I just realized (late again) that while a few years back I was the one who used to shut myself down in order to be ‘good enough’ and people please, I always developed diseases that resulted in loss of my voice. With hard work  I overcame that problem, but here’s a new one. Now I am not willing to silence myself, so other’s try to do it (since they aren’t used to me speaking up for myself). A really bad habit runs in my family, namely no one listens. When I’m home, I rarely talk about things that interest me, even less about my problems or worries, I never open up about what’s going on inside me because they don’t listen on such a level, that a family member would ask me a question and I wouldn’t be able to finish my first sentence, they cut in and start to talk about themselves.

Ever since I learned about the link between those above mentioned emotions, communication and jaw pain, I am more aware of what’s going on in my jaw the moment this scenarios happen.

Obviously, there’s a lot I hold back for months now.

Louise Hay gives this affirmation for jaw pain: “I am willing to change the patterns in me that created this condition.  I love and approve of myself.  I am safe.” Okay, so for me to change this pattern means to show up as who I am, today, this moment in front of my family, too.  I love my self.  I will learn to trust others will love me as well. To be willing to stand in my own truth and say “This is me”. And this new me is not the one they are used to but it doesn’t mean that they can’t accept the fact that I am a different person and that my childhood home can’t be a safe place from now on.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”   Anais Nin

So I guess, it’s time to blossom – everywhere.

(Finally I figured by the end of this article.)

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