A Punch to the Jaw
...And Other Bad Ideas from a Teenage Boy
In the fall of 2005, I woke up in the middle of the night with my jaw completely locked closed. I could not open my mouth and I felt like I had a vice grip around my jaw. As I was half asleep, I could not really make sense of what was happening to me. I remember trying over and over again to open my mouth, but without any luck. After many failed attempts, I was scared, confused, and desperate, so what did I do?
The sensible thing any teenager would do: punch themselves in the face. And I did. After that I felt enough wiggle room to open my mouth and “POP!”- my jaw unlocked! But it was accompanied by intense pain and soreness that lasted for several days.
Again, like any sensible teenager, I did not tell anyone and just chalked it up to a one-off occurrence. But, of course, the fun didn’t end there! This actually kept happening to me over the course of several months. Every time I opened my mouth I felt a click upon opening and then a click upon closing. I would wake up at least two times a week with my jaw locked, but I knew how to “fix” it: by punching myself… in the face. (I was clearly not the brightest… but I can blame that on my only partially formed prefrontal cortex.)
Finally, after months of enduring this, I sought the help of a TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction) specialist. His examination took a grand total of 10 minutes and he informed me that I had a type of TMD called “disc displacement with reduction with intermittent locking.”
I thought. “Well, great…So how do I fix it?”
My treatment was so simple that it’s borderline laughable. He did a little bit of massage to my jaw and educated me on basic behavioral modifications. He told me to stop chewing gum. He showed me new sleeping postures. And educated me on why I needed to start breathing to both sides when I swam.
I did all the things he said and within a matter of weeks my pain was completely gone. And since then my jaw has never locked up again. If I open my mouth wide I still hear and feel a “click,” but I learned that this is not indicative of harm and has no meaningful impact on function.
For a condition that seemed so bizarre with such an intense amount of pain, I was all but “cured.” And it only took one visit. Crazy!
Understand that this is not the story for every individual who has TMD, there are several different conditions and disorders that fall under the umbrella term “TMD.” But, generally speaking, many of the symptoms individuals with TMD face are extremely treatable. Perhaps not as simple as mine, but treatable nonetheless!
If you are currently experiencing jaw, facial, mouth, neck, or head pain, the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) might be indicated as a driver behind your symptoms.
If this is you, then you are in luck! Every therapist at Functionize Health & Physical Therapy are now Kraus TMD Network trained practitioners with skilled ability to diagnose, treat, and manage TMD conditions. Give us a call or shoot us an email today to set up an appointment.
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Jacob Reynolds PT, DPT, OCS – Physical Therapist
Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
Follow Jake on Instagram: @theswimmingphysio