Treatment for TMJ: The non-treatment that rid me of jaw pain

My three big reasons to re-prioritize and reduce stress
A few months ago my jaw suddenly started hurting.  It remained this way for weeks to the point when I finally called my dentist.  By the time I got in there, I could barely open my jaw far enough for one finger to slide between my upper and lower teeth.  My dentist diagnosed it as TMJ.  

"What is TMJ?" you ask.   Web MD describes it like this:

"Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for  temporomandibular joint." Possible causes include:
  • Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
  • Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
Since, I don't grind my teeth, my dentist told me to try to identify points of stress, put on a hot compress on my jaw, and do a few jaw exercises.  I was not given any medication.   I knew it had to be stress related because the pressures of motherhood are tremendous.  In fact the condition is far more common in women than man and is ususally diagnosed between 20 and 40 years old.

As a 30-something SAHM with two little kids I was drowning under the pressure - much of it self imposed.  I had started out freelance writing "for fun" nearly five years ago after my daughter was born and I stopped working in the newsroom.  At times I made very good money.  Business was going so well for me that I had hired an assistant.  But the online writing freelance world isn't steady and shouldn't be relied on for consistent income.  
Within a matter of months I started making a fraction of what I had been used to, while I was still putting out the same amount of material and spending even more time doing it.   I spent hours and hours working on stories and articles while I neglected laundry, cooking, cleaning and at times,  though unintentional, my children.  Meantime, the pressure was building as I tried to stay afloat and make it work for me and my employee.  Since I paid her a percentage I felt terrible that the pay was next to  nothing.  Finally, I had had enough of working for pennies an hour.  After more than 4 years, thousands of articles, a huge network of contacts, and a very well established social media following - I just walked away.  It was terribly hard.  I cried.  I was tempted back.  This was my baby.  This was my link to the working world.  This was my financial contribution to our family.   Guess what - I believe it was also the cause of a lot of jaw pain and unnecessary stress on myself and our family. 

Within days of walking away from freelance writing and re-evaluating my priorities, I had NO more pain in my jaw.  I literally woke up one day without any pain in my jaw.   I have a full range of motion and I no longer have clicking or "lock" jaw.   Honestly, I did not even have time to take any of my doctor's suggestions except identify the major point of stress. 

I guess my point is this - motherhood is stressful, but don't make it harmful to your health.  Know your limits and when it's time to walk away from things that in the greater scheme aren't all that important.  I stopped "working" for a reason - actually 2 of them.  They're 2 and 4 right now.  They'll both be in school at least part time next year and I'll have the next 40 years of my life to work and build my business.  I am fortunate that I don't need to work.  However, I do need more for myself than just cleaning, cooking, and teaching kids how to poop on the pot -- I need a creative release.  I looked at what I enjoy and that is DIY projects and I've turned to that, but only after everything else is done.   

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