It has been a long time since I've posted here. Not all of it has been good, I remember posting here about possible TMJ issues in 2012 or thereabouts. I was having problems with my left ear that kept getting blocked intermittently for no good reason, and the ENT doc was no help whatsoever, giving me a nasal spray to use for a couple of days which did nothing of course. Despite what everyone else was advising me, I googled the problem and my fears moved from one thing to another, including rare inner ear diseases like hydrops, Meniere's, etc. However, along with these 1001 anxieties that Googling spawned in me, it also indicated to me that TMJ could be a possible problem. If only Googling about one's health ONLY brought out positive outcomes without spawning 1001 anxieties along with it???!!!
Of course TMJ is one of those potentially expensive conditions that are not well accommodated in most countries including the UK, where I am. My dentist was dismissive, he said if I wasn't having terrible pain then it wasn't a problem! I ended up going to a traditional Chinese acupuncturist for treatment, and suggested to them that I had TMJ/a tight jaw. They poked a needle very lightly around my jaw joint region and in front of my ear and for some reason, whenever my ear was blocked, I would usually experience temporary relief this way. I had no explanations for this.
I was getting TERRIBLE anxiety from this problem, the problem was more than irritating, and reading health forums online about ETD and how it could be "permanent" for some people just sealed it for me. I was searching everywhere for answers and getting none. One bright spot was when some people told me that TMJ *could* be the cause of these ear issues. I didn't really think I ground my teeth at night, but I figured, hey I was stressed, and I clenched my teeth often - couldn't I give myself TMJ from it?
Anyhow to make a long story short, I went to the acupuncturist weekly for several months and it seemed to keep the problem in check. However, when I stopped going so often, the ear really acted up and kept blocking (and then unblocking) every few days. It was extremely distressing and I was at my rope's end. I even went to the dentist for a special splint, which was horrendously uncomfortable to wear, but I wore it faithfully every night in order to stop my (supposed) grinding. Someone told me to check out a dry needling specialist and so I did. They knew how to assess for TMJ and told me my jaw muscles were indeed extremely tight, and so was the rest of my neck and upper back, so they commenced treatment, which was basically poking needles straight into 'trigger points' in my muscles. It was painful although I suspect the fear made the "pain" a lot worse than if I had been relaxed. Afterwards, some parts swelled, including my jaw area, but I was told this was "normal". Well, after a week or two of relief, the trouble started all over again. This time, I even had a swelling just under my ear, beneath the jaw line. Wheee!!!!
Late last autumn, as my jaw was swelling and left ear blocking up every week or so, I ended up going to a physiotherapist who specialised in TMJ and upper neck disorders. This was really a godsend. She told me that my on-going and long standing muscle problems in my neck and shoulders were ultimately the cause of my tight TMJ, and NOT tooth grinding. I could throw away the splint the dentist made me (hooray) and just undergo treatment and do Pilates-style exercises daily. Well, it took a few nerve wracking months for recovery but the improvement was almost immediate... treatment was also relaxing and relatively painless. I stopped having these relapses every few days and my ear/jaw area felt much better at the end of 3 months of physiotherapy. The acupuncture probably worked because the needle temporarily relieved the surface muscle spasms causing the blockage, but of course it was never a permanent cure.
To this date, I am still seeing her from time to time as I am too afraid of letting things slide, but things are SO much better now. Why this long story? I guess it's to say that this story had a happy ending and a good resolution, despite my HUGE pessimism about it at the beginning and my utter conviction that I was going to suffer this for the rest of my life. I was ready to slit my wrists in the pit of my despair. However, it has also left me with a deep phobia about anything to do with my ears. Any ear symptoms I get, which may be utterly unrelated to this muscular problem, sets me off into a spiral of panic, despair and relentless anxiety.
I don't know if anyone else has experienced the same thing, having HA about a certain issue, and then being obsessed and fixated with that issue even after the first problem has been resolved?