Over the course of 35 years of practice in NYC and Long Island, I have seen thousands of patients who complained of persistent pain in their face, ears, teeth, and/or jaw. These pain complaints have often been accompanied by tightness and soreness in the jaw and facial muscles, limited jaw opening, difficulty chewing due to pain, and at times other symptoms such as burning and tingling in the face and lips. As a result of past treatment failures, many of these patients are told by their doctors that their symptoms are all in their head. Sometimes, patients feel as if they were being personally blamed for having a problem.
If you are one of those people who have facial pain that has lingered – not only is your pain real – it is not your fault! Your facial pain can be understood and effectively treated.
Facial pain problems fall into one of 5 recognizable categories. These are:
- Pain of tooth origin
- Pain of muscle and joint origin
- Pain of nerve origin
- Headaches including Migraines
- Pain due to medical problems
Unfortunately, facial pain problems are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Here’s why:
You have referred pain: This means that the location of your pain is not where the pain is coming from. The most familiar example of this is when pain is experienced in the left arm just prior to, or during, a heart attack. The pain is in your arm, but the problem is in your heart. Referred pain in the face is common and can lead to treatment at the site of the described pain, but not at the true source. As a result, the facial pain continues.
The intensity of your pain has been misinterpreted: Facial pain is often so intense that patients assume that something is terribly wrong. Although it is accepted that intensity of symptoms often has nothing to do with the seriousness of a problem, doctors are often persuaded to order lots of medical tests which lead to anxious moments while you wait for the results. When nothing of concern is discovered a short moment of relief is replaced with the question: “It still hurts. What do I do now?”
The connection between emotions and pain: Because most people struggle to accept the concept that emotions and stress, through their influence on muscles, can cause significant pain, and because many doctors are unwilling to adequately explain how this occurs, the most common source of facial pain, muscles, is often neglected. As a result, pain lingers and becomes more difficult to treat over time.
If you are one of those people who suffer with facial pain. If you use pain medication frequently and have trouble at work or in school because of your facial pain, there is help for you.