TMJ pain management Falls Church VA The Case of the Not So Happy Ending Flickr cc credit Parajt.ajmoht
As many of you know, dear readers, I cannot fix everyone who walks through my doors. So today I am going to make a confession about one of my personal failures. This should provide some really good fodder for my naysayers out there, especially when you read about the outcome. This patient’s story goes as follows: Motor Vehicle accident in 1999- he was rear ended at fairly high speed while stopped as a jaywalker was crossing the street. The next morning, he was unable to move his neck or back due to the injuries sustained. TMJ MRI showed displaced discs. The two neurosurgeons told him the same thing: he needed surgery- rods down the neck and back to get stability. This surgery had nothing to do with the TMJ problem so there would be more work to do is how I figured. Anyway – this patient then told me that one of his surgeons told him he looked like “one of those marines who have jumped out of a helicopter a thousand times over” when it came to how damaged his cervical and lumbar spines were. And just to make it better, one of the surgeons told this guy that even if he did the surgery, he would probably be in a wheelchair within five years.

I knew right then and there I was over my head, but I had to try and help this guy. I made the usual decompression appliance which helped a lot. Then the patient went back and forth to MANY different pain specialists –from acupuncture, to chiropractors, to nerve specialists, and more. This poor guy saw everybody you can imagine and yet never really got a lot better. Fast forward almost twenty years and this patient is still wearing a similar appliance as he had right after the accident. He ‘manages’ the pain. There are lots of heating pads, back massagers, advil, hot soaking tubs, and whatever else he can manage with.

It was quite recently that I coined the term ‘train wreck’ with patients like this. It was also at that time that I openly learned to admit that I most certainly DID NOT have all the answers! And that was when life got just a little bit easier perhaps. I knew I could not fix everybody that walked in our doors because you see, dear readers, that patient is ME! Because of an irresponsible driver nearly 20 years ago, I now suffer daily back and neck pain and have learned how to manage my case very carefully. As I sit here typing, there is a massage device wrapped around my neck and I am wearing my dental appliance to support the TM joints. I simply could not take that risk with the rods going through my back- I did not want to end up in a wheelchair. So I too am seeking answers as I go along the journey. Maybe that is what makes me so passionate about what I do. My own failure with my own case has shown me that sometimes a person has so much damage that all you can do is to manage the pain and learn to keep looking for better answers.

I must admit that one of the ‘better answers’ has been working with the osteopath doctors that I work with. They seem to have a handle on getting things lined up better, longer. It is quite interesting having this type of doctor put their hands on your head, feel the cranial pulses, and tell you that you experienced an accident years ago when you never told them anything about it. So as a patient myself, I will keep you all informed of my own personal progress. My goal is to learn as much as I possibly can about this disorder that affects millions of people and is so poorly understood. I am hoping to educate millions of people in the coming years and to give them hope!