Lisa Hodgetts, 38, West Kempsey, NSW
Not again, I thought as I opened my eyes. Each morning, I woke with a splitting headache. When I got out of bed, I felt so dizzy I had to lie back down again. I’d finally had enough so I decided to talk to my GP about it.
‘I’m worried there might be something seriously wrong,’ I said. After a brief inspection, he couldn’t find an explanation so I was referred to an audiologist to see if it had anything to do with my ears. He found nothing wrong, but the symptoms continued.
It was six months before I had an answer when an ear, nose and throat specialist examined my jaw.
‘You have temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ,’ he said, explaining it’s a problem with the joint that connects the jaw to the skull’s temporal bones, which are in front of each ear.
An x-ray showed the left side of my jaw bone had worn away and looked sharp where it was meant to be rounded. ‘Have you ever had problems with your jaw before?’ he asked.
I recalled a time years ago when my jaw would regularly lock during the university exam period. My GP had put it down to stress and showed me some exercises I could do to relax the muscle. But I never thought my jaw could be causing my dizziness!
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The doctor explained TMJ is common in women under 35 and can be a result of things such as grinding your teeth or stress. In my case it’s caused by arthritis in the jaw joint, but I’m managing the condition with specific physio exercises.
Although I still suffer sometimes, I’m pleased I finally have an answer for my strange symptom!
Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
- The temporomandibular joint acts like a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to the skull.
- TMJ syndrome can cause pain in the jaw joint and muscles that control the jaw’s movement.
- Causes include arthritis, clenching the jaw and grinding your teeth. In most cases TMJ can be alleviated with non-surgical treatments, however in severe cases surgery may be required.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 3, 2016.