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TMJ Disorder -TemporoMandibular Joint Message Board

TMJ Disorder -TemporoMandibular Joint Board Index

I'm a 63 yr old male and the first TMJ symptom I ever had was a year ago. One morning right after I woke up, it seemed my the left side of my jaw slipped out of joint. I think it was caused by something I did during sleep, maybe sleeping on my left jaw. When I would open and close my mouth, I could hear and feel it jerk back into place, this was accompanied by a loud dull popping sound. There was no pain or soreness involved with this. I went to my dentist and he gave me a night guard, which I used each night for a few months. It didn't really seem to help. I also tried some TMJ exercises that may have helped some.
About a month after seeing the dentist I went to my chiropractor. He was used to treating the problem and used this little tool that chiropractors use that whacks a 1/8 area of the body with a thrust to move a bone or joint. He did this a few times around my TMJ joint. It didn't seem to do much except cause pain for the first time in that area. I also started noticing that the left side of my throat would get pretty sore especially during sleep and sometimes it would even make my left inner ear sore.
The popping was slightly better, so I saw him again the next week and he did the same thing and suggested I give it a few weeks or a month before coming back. Well this time after about a week the popping from the jaw slipping out of joint did go away and has never come back. I only have minor pops sometimes when I open my mouth.
After about a month of pretty bad pain and not being able to eat certain foods like my crunchy breakfast granola. I also couldn't open my mouth that wide to eat sandwiches very well, but I continued to eat them and just crushed the sandwich some and ate small bites. I decided not to go back to the chiropractor anymore and let it get better on it's own.
It very gradually got better and I'm able to eat my crunchy granola with a little pain and my sandwiches with a little pain. About 6 months later I still had jaw soreness during sleep and when I first woke up, but in general it would always go away after I got up and so would my sore throat. I haven't had much ear pain until more recently. And the pain pretty much only occurs during sleep, but not every night during sleep and pretty much never after I get up in the morning.
For a long time I've tried to sleep only on my back and only some on my side with my left jaw against the pillow. For about a month, I've noticed it getting a little worse and every single night when I lay down on my back. It seems like the TMJ muscle tightens up in the first minute or so and maybe spasms, this makes my jaw sore and stiff and always makes the left side of my throat sore and lately my left inner ear gets sore too.
I haven't used the night guard in many months, because it seems that I don't grind my teeth or clench my jaw and besides the pain start immediately when I lay on my back. If I then lay on one of my sides, the pain and tightness goes away immediately, no more sore throat or earache either.
Even on my side sometimes I still feel pain and soreness in my jaw, but not nearly as bad as sleeping on my back. When I get up in the morning I rarely have soreness in my jaw, throat or ear except when I eat. Lately I've notice during the day sometimes I have a little tension in my jaw, like mild clenching. I'm making an effort to be aware of what I'm doing more and to relax my jaw and mouth more.
My big question is what should I do to make this better? Should I do TMJ exercises, massage the muscle, do neck exercises, go back to eating oatmeal and softer foods even though it's not causing much of a problem, go to a chiropractor, TMJ Doctor, or just try to ignore it and let it get better on it's own?
Should I look at this more like a broken bone where you try not to use it at all or should I look at it as a muscle that needs massage, movement, exercises to strengthen the muscle, should I go back to sleeping on my back since that seems to be better for TMJ in most cases and ignore the tightness of the TMJ muscle and ear pain?
One back story that may be significant is that I've had some pinched nerve problems in my neck for about 5 years. These problems always affected my hands and arms only. And the pain would migrate to different parts of the hands and arms over weeks. Sometimes very severe other times mild. This all seemed to be aggravated by my sleep. I had to pretty much always sleep on my back, sleeping on my sides seemed to aggravate the problem.
My pinched nerve in the neck problems seems to have pretty much gone away. I rarely get pain in my hands or arms, although I have a little lately maybe because I've been sleeping so much on my side, so that concerns me.
The pinched nerve problem has gradually gotten better, I suppose the chiropractic visits helped that. Since I don't have those problems anymore I'm avoiding going back to the chiropractor in case his adjustments may possibly bring the problems back and also make my TMJ worse.
So another question in my mind is are these 2 problems related to my neck pinched nerve? I do notice I can't turn my head as far to the left as I can to the right. My neck doesn't hurt much, but I do wonder if a nerve is being pinched in my neck when I lay on my back that has an effect on my TMJ. So many questions? Sorry about that. I would so appreciate anyone chiming in with any sage advice.

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