TMJ: The Bright Side

green smoothie

It’s a really, really good thing I like smoothies. Credit: joyosity, Flickr

Two months later, and I’m still dealing with a pretty severe case of TMJ.

I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing, according to my dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, physical therapist, massage therapist, and chiropractor. Drinking lots of smoothies, eating the occasional soft foods (like pasta), and taking all kinds of meds and supplements. And it still hurts.

But! That’s not what this post is about! The fact of the matter is, some good stuff has come out of this journey. And the way I see it, if I can find a bright side to this, I can see the silver lining in just about anything.

I’m way better at identifying hunger. This has always been a struggle for me, because, you know, I really enjoy snacking. And working from home with a whole pantry readily available makes that easy to do. Or overdo, as the case may be. But when my snacking options are so limited, it’s easier for me to stop and decide whether I’m actually hungry. Whipping up a smoothie or heating up soup isn’t all that time consuming, but doing that, plus cleaning up afterward, takes a lot more time and energy than, say, grabbing a handful of almonds or an apple. So, if I’m not actually experiencing hunger, I tend to just wait a bit.

I plan ahead more. It’s one thing to get caught somewhere and have to compromise a bit on how healthful your food is. It’s quite another to be caught somewhere and literally have nothing available to eat. I now look carefully at whether a restaurant or event will have something I can eat—if not, I make sure I’m fairly full ahead of time and/or bring something along that will satisfy me.

I’m eating much more healthfully. To make sure I’m getting enough protein and nutrition, I’m tracking my meals on random days and checking the nutritional values. With all the good stuff I’m shoving in my smoothies, I’m probably eating better than ever before. And while it gets a little old sometimes, man, those smoothies are still delicious.

I’m tougher than I thought. I’ve never been sure about my pain tolerance. I mean, I knew I wasn’t a huge wimp, but I wasn’t sure I could stand up to much pain. My massage therapy sessions have taught me that, when I need to, I can handle a lot. It’s not a fun lesson, but it’s one that’s definitely helping me with my tri training. A little discomfort on my bike is nothing compared to having my pterygoid worked from inside my mouth.

And, yeah, I lost a little weight. It’s not a huge amount, but I’m definitely dropping some pounds. And it’s kind of nice to be able to do that despite never feeling hungry and, more often than not, having a little ice cream or fro-yo at night. Hey, if I can’t snack or eat sandwiches or bagels or so many of the other things I like to treat myself with, I think it’s totally fair to have a scoop or two when I want.

I mean, overall? This super sucks. But I would be a big lying liar if I said I wasn’t pretty stoked about the above. TMJ isn’t the best way to learn these lessons or get these results, but if that’s the path I have to take anyway, I’m glad some good has come out of it! And, when I forget about the above, I can always sing this song.

Have you ever learned some healthy lessons or made positive life changes in the wake of injury or illness? —Kristen

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  1. I’ve had 2 pretty horrible incidents with TMJ myself, and applaud you for training while dealing with it. I had to stop running when my jaw locked because the pounding was too much to handle. But, I agree, it helped me learn a lot about taking better care of myself. Additionally, the second time it happened I learned to identify potential trouble, so I find ways to destress, and stop eating things that are tough to chew.

    I hope you start getting back to normal soon!

  2. Cat says:

    Hi Kristen,
    I hope you will get better soon.

  3. Grace says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that you have been dealing with this. It sounds really hard. I noticed that you mentioned tracking your nutrition, and thought that maybe this free, social fitness tracking website might help. It is called Gymshout.com and tracks your nutrition and exercise to give you an overall score every day. They have stats so that you can see your progress, and they say that challenges and battle features will be added soon. I hope this helps, and I hope that you recover soon.

  4. My sister has this. I will be praying for you that you are going to get better .

  5. I hope and pray that you get better soon. it’s hard to move up and about when you have something that is causing you pain.

  6. Russ says:

    I really do sympathise with you trying to cope with the pain It brought back memories of an incident many years ago, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you.

    I had broken my jaw in two places playing rugby and the treatment at that time involved wiring my teeth together so I was unable to eat any solids.

    Fortunately (I know this is going to sound weird) one of my front teeth had been knocked out and I was able to push tiny morsels of food through the gap, my only source of solids for 6 weeks.

    I hope this image of a pathetic male brings a smile to your face and like everyone else here wish you a speedy and complete recovery.

    Best wishes


  7. Jeevan says:

    Hey Kristen, I can’t thank you enough for providing a much-needed boost of inspiration! I was wondering if your condition has improved since you had written this article?