My name is Lelly and I'm from Scotland and I've been suffering from TMJ problems since I was about 17/18. I've been lurking on the forums here for ages, but I need some advice now so I thought I'd wade in! I'll give you the shortened version of my story, so I don't bore you all to tears.
Initially I had moderate pain, and clicking, and locking etc, so I went to see my GP and he referred me to the local dental hospital. They looked at my teeth and said "yep, you're a clencher!" and made me a mouth guard to wear at night. They also took an MRI scan. When I went in to get the results they said they'd called the radiologist three times to check they'd sent the right scans as they couldn't believe there could be such marked degeneration in someone so young. They made the decision to refer me to the Maxillo Facial Surgeon at Ninewells Hospital here in Dundee.
From what I've read on these forums, surgeons in America seem to just want to do surgery, and I'm gathering this is because it makes them money? Anyway, it doesn't really work like that here. Because of the NHS, doctors here are more likely to actually have the patients best interests at heart, and in fact, they usually try every conservative treatment possible before surgery because it's cheaper.
Initially the surgeon prescribed me some Prothiaden. Didn't help one bit. By this time I was managing the pain with Ibuprofen and the strongest dose of Co-codamol. So after that didn't work, he tried a higher dose of Prothiaden, which again didn't work.
He then decided to send me off for a CT scan so he could get a better look. The CT scan showed marked Osteo Arthitis in both sides. At this point he decided to do an Arthroscopy on the right side (for some reason, although both sides are as bad, the right side hurts more). He said he was hoping he would go in and see something other than the arthritis, as that would be easier to fix. He went into the joint and said he was shocked by how much worse it looked, so he just flushed it out and closed me up.
I then had a few follow up appointments where we tried different pain meds and even some alternative therapies. Nothing was working particularly well. He basically told me then that I would need joint replacements but that he would do all he could to hold off on doing them for as long as was possible (even saying, he hoped he'd retired by the time it was needed).
In December, I had more surgery on the right side. He used a cryoprobe to freeze the joint capsule with liquid nitrogen. The idea being that it would freeze the nerves and thus the pain. Obviously this would also only be short term as the joints are still degenerating at a remarkable rate.
Basically, this hasn't helped at all. My last appointment was a few weeks ago. He said that unfortunately the joints were so bad they would need replaced soon. Probably this summer (I told him I didn't want anymore surgery until then as I'm in my final year of uni and can't take anymore right now!).
I have an appointment with him in April where he's going to inject steroids into the joints to relieve the pain and inflammation. Steroids will however speed up the bone degeneration, so this is always a last ditch pain relief procedure they only do in patients who they know are getting joint replacements in the near future.
So! Thing is, as I've mentioned, I'm a final year student (Biology, so feel free to talk science to me!), and I've been accepted onto a post graduate course to become a teacher. Very very competitive course, and I'm so proud of myself and happy to have gotten in, but it starts in August and the earliest I can have surgery is the end of May. Is that going to be enough time to recover? In April, he should be able to give me an idea of what his lists are like and roughly when he can fit me in, so it could be later than that. If it's any later than July, I'm obviously going to have to defer the course for a year, but am I kidding myself for even thinking it's possible to have joint replacements in the summer and start an intensive course in teaching in August?
I would absolutely hate to start the course, realise I wasn't ready and have to withdraw. As I mentioned it's a really competitive course so I want to be realistic and if I have to defer then at least someone can take the place, which isn't the case if I just drop out.
Oh dear. This is the short version? Sorry! So yeah, advice on recovery times, advice about the surgery in general (bearing in mind that my surgeon isn't a money grabbing tool and is genuinely out for my best interests), and about even if I have recovered, should I not be on a stressful course? I just want to be fair to the uni and make a decision as soon as possible so if they have to they can offer the place to someone else. Obviously though, I DO want to do the course, but I want to do my best at it!
Once again, sorry for the novel!