Doctor, Why Does My Face Still Ache?: Getting Relief from Persistent Jaw, Ear, Tooth, and Headache Pain by Donald R. Tanenbaum, DDS, MPH and S. L. Roistacher, DDS is an outstanding explanation of the causes of facial pain, and why it’s so hard to find treatments that actually work.
I thought the following quote was exceptionally appropriate because so many chronic pain patients have spent years hearing doctors, nurses, friends, and family members telling them that their pain is “all in your head.” Although Dr. Tanenbaum’s explanations of the causes of facial pain rest on the mind/body connection, he makes it quite clear that this is a physical problem, not a psychiatric or psychological one.
“While the brain’s inability to maintain normal muscle function is the catalyst for your pain, it is important to emphasize that the pain is not “in your head.” Real physical changes have occurred in muscles and their associated nerves and tissues.” (Emphasis mine.)
I have to admit that I expected this to be a difficult read. With many complex muscle and joint interactions; plus the interplay of stress, the mind, and the body to explain; I anticipated many hard to understand medical and dental terms, paired with complicated definitions. Instead I found terms with clear, plain-English explanations that were easy to follow and actually made sense; and drawings that show the interplay of muscles and the areas of referred pain.
Dr. Tanenbaum provides simple, straight-forward explanations of complicated concepts like referred pain; sensitization; and how it is possible to have severe pain without having any structural problems, damage, or disease processes causing it. He spells out how stress, suppressed anger, and the physical habits (like nail-biting, jaw-clenching, tooth grinding, etc.) we develop to deal with them can affect the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders; causing muscle tension, spasms, and referred pain. He also provides an excellent flow chart showing the interactions and feedback loops of a “brain under siege” by long-term stress (recreated here with permission.)
Copyright 2012 by Donald R. Tanenbaum and S. L. Roistacher (reprinted with permission)
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has unrelieved facial pain, especially if you’ve been seeing multiple doctors trying to find a way to ease your pain and getting no results, or having even more pain after treatment. An extra copy for your doctor or dentist can help him/her treat you more effectively, or help you get a referral to an appropriate specialist if that is necessary. I’ve even found that some of the techniques suggested in the book help me manage my fibromyalgia pain, since stress increases central sensitization, which is a factor in both facial pain and fibro pain.
About Dr. Tannenbaum: Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist in orofacial pain. He was the Council Chair of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain 2020-2011, as well as President of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain 2009-2010. He is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at Hofstra North Shore, LIJ School of Medicine; Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, School of Dental Medicine at Stony Brook University; and Section Head, Associate Attending Orofacial Pain/Dental Sleep Medicine Department of Dental Medicine Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center New Hyde Park, NY
Disclosure: A free review copy was provided by the author. No other form of compensation has been offered or received for this review.
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By Wendy Burnett
Do you do everything you can to ease your fibro symptoms, and wonder why you don’t feel better? If you’re being exposed to the following substances, you may be undoing all the good you’re doing with your diet, medications and alternative treatments.
- Aluminum Hydroxide – An adjuvant added to vaccines to increase antibody production, aluminum hydroxide is a neurotoxin that has been connected to Gulf War Syndrome; as well as cognitive dysfunctions and motor neuron disease, which is virtually indistinguishable from classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) except for the age of onset. It has also been linked to the destruction of, and damage to, motor neurons; which are responsible for telling your muscles to contract or relax, thus controlling movement; as well as for receiving sensations from the body.
- Aspartame – Aspartame (Nutra-Sweet) has been linked to headaches, including migraine; higher pain levels, cancer, brain tumors, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sound in the ears,) noise sensitivity; decreased vision and/or other eye problems such as: blurring, bright flashes, squiggly lines, tunnel vision; decreased night vision; pain in one or both eyes; dry eyes; dizziness and unsteadiness; confusion and memory loss; severe drowsiness and sleepiness; Continue reading 8 Things You Didn’t Know Would Make Fibromyalgia Worse »
- Image by ☃ via Flickr
I’ve been without insurance for two years now, which means I haven’t seen a doctor for my fibromyalgia in quite a while. Without a doctor, I don’t have access to medication, so I’ve had to get rather ummmm, “creative,” to manage my symptoms. Continue reading Fibromyalgia without Insurance: How I Cope »
The state of Washington has passed a bill (SHB 2876) that could limit access to treatment for your pain and set dosage limits on opioid pain medications. This is a serious issue for all of those who live with chronic pain and their families/caregivers, as well as for society as a whole. Inadequate pain control results in more frequent doctor visits, increased work absences, lower productivity, higher rates of disability and an increased need for social programs such as food stamps. It can also cause depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment (difficulty thinking, reasoning, or remembering,) a compromised immune system, chronic stress, an impaired ability to perform everyday tasks such as dressing or housework, limited mobility, disturbed sleep and more. Continue reading Do You Live With Chronic Pain? Your Right to Adequate Treatment is Under Attack! »
My personal idea of a good day is one where I don’t have to go to work, and I can spend some time just doing things that make me feel better. It does NOT mean that I’m not in pain (I haven’t had a day when the pain levels were below a 4 or 5 on the pain scale in at least 5 years.) It also doesn’t mean I’m not exhausted, or that I can actually remember all the things I need to take care of without lists, notes and reminders from the people around me.
What it does mean is that the pain levels are at a 6 or below, and that I can lay down with the hot pads when I need to, or take a nap. Continue reading What does a "good" day look like to you? »
In my Sunday post, I promised you complementary/alternative methods you can try for pain and stress control/reduction, so here we go. These methods apply in all of the 4Ps, although they apply in different ways in different stages. Continue reading Learning to Live with Pain – Being Proactive (Part 2) »
Does it work? Yes, and no . . . Like anything else, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) has its benefits, but it is definitely not going to make your fibro go away completely. It does, however, help my symptoms and make my fibro easier to live with, so I’ve added it to the resources I use to help me cope. (Is this purely a placebo effect? I don’t really care. If I feel better, or have less pain, it’s worked for me, and I’m happy with that no matter what the mechanism is.)
I downloaded the free EFT manual from http://www.emofree.com and read the information provided, memorizing the steps needed to perform a treatment. The first symptom I tried it on was a migraine, and it worked pretty well. The first treatment eased the pain, Continue reading EFT and Tapping for Fibromyalgia – Do They Work? »
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters”? They do some really interesting stuff on there, and this past Wednesday (April 28th,) they tackled a pair of “myths” about pain:
- Women have a higher pain tolerance than men. and
- Cursing increases pain tolerance
It was pretty interesting. They set up a bowl of ice water that was kept at just above freezing (1 degree Celcius) and attached to a timer. They then tested an equal number of men and women, seeing how long each person could keep their hand submerged. The subjects were not told that the men and women were competing, and for the first test, they were not permitted to curse while their hand was submerged. Continue reading Learning to Live with Pain – Being Proactive »
A few years ago, my rheumatologist suggested that I try a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) for my fibromyalgia pain. She gave me a prescription (be sure to make a copy of the prescription to keep in the case with your TENS in case you need to travel with it,) and I jumped through all the insurance hoops, picking up my TENS unit a few weeks later.
I visited a physical therapist to learn how to use it, and started taking it to work with me every day. I used it constantly for a while, Continue reading Does Using a TENS Unit Ease Fibromyalgia Pain? »