This is not how things are supposed to go the last two weeks before Ironman.
Starting on Wednesday, July 3rd, my jaw started aching. I took a couple of Advil and it went away. It ached on and off the rest of the week, getting progressively worse as the week wore on, to the point I was losing sleep.
On Sunday I did a 6.5 hour ride, got off the bike short of 100 miles. It was a horrible ride for me. I didn’t feel good at all, the pain, stress, and lack of sleep made this ride just miserable.
To top it off, at the end of the ride, my jaw felt like it was quite literally blowing off my face, dull to sharp stabbing pain ran from my temple down my jaw, into my ear, across the top of my face.
I went home to a sleepless night – I took the maximum dose of Advil (800mg of gut rotting ibuprofin) but it didn’t seem to help.
I figured I had a cavity or some tooth problem, and since it was a holiday weekend, had to wait until Monday to get into the dentist.
Conveniently the dentist couldn’t fit me in until Tuesday, so another painful workday and sleepless night later, I went to see him.
He took x-rays, poked, prodded and told me my teeth were fine.
He shrugged and said, “I am pretty sure your problem is muscular.”
He looks in my mouth again, shrugs, and says, “You could try a mouth guard to wear at night – for $400 – that will give you some relief. I don’t have a magic pill though.”
Magic pill? I wanted to kick him in the kahunas.
But he said that word. Relief. That is all I wanted.
I shelled out the money and stuffed the stupid thing in my mouth.
It made it worse. So much worse.
I was popping Advil like skittles and I swear it wasn’t touching the pain.
“OK,” I think as I am driving, “it isn’t a tooth problem. Time for the next step.”
So I called my doctor and got in to see her nurse practitioner.
I tell her my story. She tells me she thinks it is a tooth problem and I should see my dentist. I repeat my story, saying I was at the dentist 2 hours ago and he said it wasn’t a tooth problem.
“Huh,” she says. “I think it is muscular.”
She turns around and opens up Google, and Google’s my symptoms.
Like I hadn’t been doing that for the past week.
She turns around and smiles, “I think you TMJ.”
I thought to myself, that is what Google told me I had as well. Along with trigeminal neuralgia, a heart attack, a brain tumor, MS, shingles, lyme disease, and a host of other scary stuff that you get when you google symptoms.
“OK, so what can we do about it?” I ask.
“Well, it has to run its course. Take some Advil (800mg every 6 hours) and I will write you a prescription for some muscle relaxers.” She waves her hand, “Call in a week if it is still a problem.”
I really got the feeling no one understood or cared how much pain I was in. I felt brushed aside by my doctors.
But trusting the muscle relaxers mixed with the Advil would help, I went on my way.
Here I sit, almost a week later. My bike, running shoes, and wetsuit are collecting dust. I can barely work. I am not sleeping. Eating is the most painful, dreadful part of my day.
There is a lot that is driving me crazy with this. What drives me NUTS is the complete randomness of this. I go hours with manageable pain, pain that I can function with.
Then I get the “attacks”.
These are the episodes of intense, crippling pain that strike me…either for no reason, or if I talk, eat something soft, hard, drink hot coffee, drink iced water, move my head, or lay down to sleep.
Those things all sometimes help it too. Except the eating part. That always sucks.
Icing it helps it sometimes, and sometimes makes it worse. Same with heat. I haven’t found an over the counter pain med that will touch this.
But I keep taking them because I am scared that it could be worse. Would be worse if I didn’t take it.
Using my doctors Google skills, I found out that no one thing works for all TMJ sufferers – which makes it particularly tough for doctors to treat. I also found out that most TMJ sufferers are in pain for years before they discover what works for them.
I have an action plan. Today I am going to go to a neurological dentist, a chiropractor, and an acupuntureist. These are all things that have worked for others at a very high rate. They are the most common things I have found to help out with this.
I am also meditating and rubbing crystals on my head. I am getting desperate.
If this stuff today doesn’t help, I have also decided to get a Lyme Disease test and to demand an MRI from my doctor. I am learning that in most cases, you have to be pushy if you want decent care.
Any maybe some stronger pain meds. I hate meds. But there is a time and a place for them, and it is now.
My frustration and disappointment are at an all-time high. I have worked really hard this season with my sights on big personal goals for IMLP.
Right now, I just want to get to the starting line.
Thanks for reading!