I've had TMJ for a long, long time. Since I was a teenager, in fact. My TMJ started after my CFS symptoms began, and I don't think the TMJ is related to or caused by CFS.
I learned to live with my TMJ, and didn't give much thought to it. It hurt sometimes. And the popping noise it made could get really loud at times, so loud that people eating with me would hear it. But I never gave it much thought. Big picture, with all my other CFS symptoms, the TMJ was like getting bit by a mosquito while being attacked by a hornet's nest.
But times change, and in the past year or two I developed a theory/treatment where my goal was to cure/fix/resolve as many symptoms as I could, whether I thought they were related to CFS or not. I was hoping that by curing my symptoms, I'd beat the disease. So one day, it was my TMJ's turn to be the target of my self-treatments.
I did some research on TMJ. How the jaw worked, the structure of the jaw and the joint. I learned some very interesting things, including that the jaw joint is unique in its movement as it both slides and hinges, and no other joints in the human body does this.
I also did some research on TMJ and CFS. Apparently there is a doctor in the UK who believes that TMJ and CFS are related. His clinical experience is that he can cure anyone of CFS simply by fixing the function of their jaw. The theory reminds me of chiropractic work, whereby improper alignment of the body can cause various unexpected symptoms.
For reference, here are a Youtube video featuring Dr Amir, and a discussion forum featuring Dr Amir:
So I knew I wanted to cure my TMJ, but I really had no idea how to do this. I didn't know where to even start. But I did know one thing. I knew that if I think about a problem that I have, and keep that problem in my head long enough, I'll come up with something eventually.
It was around this time I watched a movie called, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". It's a documentary starring a charismatic Australian guy, Joe Cross, who is obese and has chronic health problems. He's on medication to treat his health issues, but it's brutal stuff and it could end up killing him. So he decides to make a life-change, and kicks off this life-change with a 60-day juice fast. So for 60-days this guy, Joe Cross, drinks fresh, homemade juice. Apples, spinach, kale, cucumbers, whatever, he throws them in his juicer, and slugs it down. It's a fun, empowering documentary. I highly recommend it.
I knew I couldn't start with a 60-day juice fast. So I started with a goal of 4 days. I got to the fourth day, and decided to stretch it a day. And on day 5 I decided to stretch it another day. I made it 7 days in total. (This is actually what works best for me with goals. Set a reasonable goal, with the hope of being able to surpass it. And if I can surpass the goal, I feel great. Otherwise, I normally meet the goal. Win-win.)
Aside from the TMJ, I noticed some significant benefits in terms of CFS symptoms while on the juice fast. I just felt better. I don't know how to describe it. I didn't feel cured, but I did feel much less CFS-like. I didn't have that "sick/poisoned" feeling I always have that is the hallmark of CFS for me.
So why don't I stay on a juice fast permanently if it helped with CFS? Well, first of all it's hard to do in terms of time. I had to drink at least 32 oz. of juice every 2 hours or I would feel like I was starving. So when on a juice fast, my life becomes juice and only juice. I was either making the juice, drinking the juice, cleaning up the juicer, or shopping for more fruits and vegetables. So if you can work at home and don't have kids, go for it. Otherwise I don't think people can make it even 2 days on this due to the time commitment.
Second, there were some negative symptoms. The first of which was bowel movements. They were all the time, and would come on with an urgency that was uncontrollable. So there always needs to be a bathroom nearby. For me this got better after day 3, and I could control my bowels better.
The 2nd negative symptom was lack of motivation/depression. I usually watch very little TV, I just rarely sit and veg in front of the TV. Maybe one day every week or two I'll veg in front of the TV for hours. But while doing the juice fast I just couldn't get up from being in front of the TV. I had no motivation to do anything, and though I have CFS I am highly motivated and love being productive. For me personally, I generally associate a lot of time in front of the TV with depression/anxiety/escapism. So if I'm doing it, lots of TV, I know something is wrong. Now maybe this was just a healing issue, as I know when I get sick with the flu or a bad cold I do the same thing, just veg in front of the TV. I also think it could be an issue with no fat or cholesterol in the diet, as I know the brain loves fat and cholesterol. Something to ponder.
So what happened when I got off the juice fast? My jaw felt very...different. It popped differently than it had before. And the right side hurt sometimes and the left wouldn't, which is the reverse of the usual pattern. Sometimes I couldn't get the jaw to pop at all, no matter how hard I tried. And over the next few weeks, the TMJ just got better and better.
Why would a juice fast help TMJ? Well, I didn't chew on anything for 7 days. That alone may have done it. Another idea is some proponents of fasting say that it allows the body to heal as the body doesn't have to use energy for digestion, which is a very energy intensive activity for the body. So maybe that played a part as well. I don't know why exactly it helped, but it sure did. A month after the juice fast and I'd say my jaw was 90% better. Pretty amazing for a problem I'd had for almost two decades.
The next thing I used was castor oil. I started putting castor oil directly on my jaw over the area of the TMJ. In the short-term, this process was amazing. For me, any tension and stiffness in the jaw disappeared within an hour of putting the oil on (I'm a huge fan of castor oil, I especially love castor oil packs. I have more castor oil posts planned for the future). And in the longer term, putting the castor oil on the jaw a few days every week took my TMJ recovery to 95%-99%.
(A quick note on the castor oil on the jaw. The oil doesn't really soak into the skin. It was like a big oil slick on my face. So like the juice fast, this is something best done when you have lots of time to spend at home.)
I barely notice my TMJ anymore. I can feel just a tiny bit of stiffness in my left jaw some days, and many days none at all. And I can't remember the last time it clicked or popped.
It's experiences like these that keep my hope going in terms of CFS. I mean, I've "healed" or "fixed" my TMJ 95% plus. I assumed I would need invasive surgery or expensive headgear to get this far, but I did it all on my own. And from what I've read, even those mainstream methods are far from guaranteed. Most people just have to live with TMJ. This experience keeps the hope alive that I'll come across a big breakthrough for CFS.