The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61871   Message #996887
Posted By: JohnInKansas
05-Aug-03 - 01:50 AM
Thread Name: tmj and harmonica
Subject: RE: tmj and harmonica
About 10 years ago, TMJS was "discovered" by the pop-med press, and quite a few dentists jumped into diagnosing it. It's (maybe) moved from being a "fad" diagnosis to being a somewhat treatable thing - or group of things.

TMJ = TemporoMandibular Joint - everyone has two of them
TMJS = TemporoMandibular Joint Syndrome, or just TMS = TemporoMandibular Syndrome describes the "problem joint."

A web search for TMS, or TMJS, should turn up a number of sites with good information.

The problem is commonly caused by prolonged displacement of the joint(s) from their "natural" position. One difficulty is that any number of things can cause a displacement sufficient to cause a problem; and the problem can cause a large variety of rather "vague" symptoms.

The early publicity frequently cited chronic headache as the main symptom. Pain in the joint is of course another symptom. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is another fairly common one, cause - probably - by pressure on nerves near the joint. (A generalized S.O.B. personality comes up - but it's not clear whether it's a symptom or a cause.)

The original "fad cure" was to attempt to grind your teeth down so that they would fit in a way that "guided" the joint into proper alignment. This is still sometimes appropriate, but is less often a first choice.

Poorly fitted dentures are a prime suspect. Missing or displaced crowns, broken teeth, etc., would be similar in effect.

Nervouse tension, and tooth grinding, appear to cause "habitual" misalignment in some people, and might be relieved by "exercising" and relaxing the joints. (This may be the effect of the harmonica playing.)

Poorly fitted eyeglasses - as when you cock your head to look through bi- or tri-focals for sustained periods - can change the alignment of the neck at the base of the skull sufficiently to displace the TMJ and cause symptoms.

Habitually leaning your chin on one hand has been cited.

Old age is definitely a factor, partly because the joints are somewhat more susceptible to physical deterioration. If the joint breaks down mechanically, there may be no natural position that will relieve whatever symptoms you have. As long as the joint is undamaged, most symptoms are probably "muscular" and can likely be relieved - if the "cause" can be identified.

It's a very "vague" thing - and good, specific diagnosis is absolutely necessary if there is to be any expectation of improvement.