In December 2012, Tiffany and her husband took their four children to a performance of The Nutcracker but her chronic headache was worse than usual that day. In fact, it had been getting worse for months. Tiffany could not enjoy the day with her family riding out the extreme pain and just waiting for the day to end so she could get home and rest. With her many responsibilities as a home-schooling mother of four Tiffany fought through her extreme headaches... but the pain was becoming too much.
“All I could do was go to bed,” Tiffany said. “And it‘s hard to home school four kids and take care of the family from bed! I felt like I was recovering from the flu every week.” Unlike many who just live with the pain and try to self-medicate with over the counter painkillers or get prescriptions to treat the pain symptoms, Tiffany chose a pro-active approach to try to solve this problem that plagued her for twenty years.
As with many TMJ patients, the road to finding a solution was long and frustrating. Trips to the emergency room, Ear, Nose & Throat doctors, CAT Scans and medical specialists finally led to a TMJ diagnosis by the Oral Medicine Clinic at the University of Washington. “After a couple of months treatment there I improved, but I had some issues with the medications they wanted me to take,” Tiffany said. “While talking to my chiropractor one day, he questioned the treatment plan at UW - if it was the right direction for me, or if the medication was covering up some structural problem. He had recently met Amy Norman and suggested that I go talk to her.”
“She got it!” Tiffany described her first encounter with Dr. Amy Norman. “She understood right away!” Dr. Norman explained to Tiffany about her neuromuscular approach to treating TMJ. The neuromuscular approach begins with understanding the structural issues in the tempromandibular joint that cause a wide range of often-severe pain such as Tiffany’s headaches.
“I was impressed right away by how much Dr. Norman knew about my situation”, Tiffany said. “After months of doctors not having any ideas of how to help me, having someone look at me and ask some insightful questions based on the shape of my mouth, my teeth and the muscle tension in my face was amazing. It suggested that she really knew her field and even more important to me, that she’d be able to help me. So I went home and did a lot of research. I read a lot, called and emailed other neuromuscular dentists and met with Dr. Norman with a list of questions. So when I made the decision to start treatment with her, I was confident that this was a good direction.”
For Tiffany, the prospect of successful treatment that didn’t involve drugs was a major benefit. Her neuromuscular treatment plan included correcting the placement of her jaw to eliminate the structural source of the pain. Drugs only masked the pain. Tiffany did not want that lifestyle and appreciated that Dr. Norman understood. “I really appreciated her knowledge of my condition and how she listened. She was concerned for all aspects of my entire life.” So, the solutions discussed included all of Tiffany’s goals including being free of medications.
In December of 2013, Tiffany and her husband took their family to a performance of The Nutcracker, only this time Tiffany was pain-free and thoroughly enjoyed the time. “I realized, wow, I couldn’t do this last year. What a difference!”
Although her treatment is not completed yet, Tiffany has made tremendous progress and feels like she is on the right path. “I’m not done with my treatment, but I definitely am on a good path,” she said. “My daily levels of pain have decreased by about half. My migraines are less frequent, less painful and easier to manage. Not only has Dr. Norman helped me, but she’s pointed me to other therapies, particularly physical therapy, that have made me stronger and healthier.”
Tiffany now sees an end to days when her family is limited by her chronic pain. The days of cancelling activities and trips are over. “I whole-heartedly recommend Dr. Norman and her staff for complicated dental problems“, Tiffany said. “They’re smart, they’re honest, they’re helpful and they’ll make sure you are well taken care of.”