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One Big Headache This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I t's3:23 a.m. and I'm still awake. Again. I have a headache that's making my headspin, with horrible pain in my jaw, neck and shoulders. I should have takensomething a half hour ago for the pain, so I get up. My headache worsens as I tryto stand - so much so that it knocks me back into my bed. It's so bad I decide tocall for my mom, who's asleep in her bedroom. I try to open my mouth, but Ican't. It's definitely stuck. I just decide to try to sleep. I want to yawn, butmy mouth is stuck. Somehow I keep yawning anyway.

And then it happens.The yawn forces my jaw open with a pop so loud that it wakes my mom, who comesrunning into my room. I ask her if she can please get me some Advil so I can goto sleep.

Try this several nights a week, and you've got my life - mineand that of ten million others.

Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ,is a misalignment of the jaw that causes facial, back and neck pain, jaw locking,popping, clicking, cracking, horrible headaches, and limited ability to open andclose your mouth. Some do not even know they have it. TMJ disorder can be causedby dental procedures (especially orthodontic work), the insertion of breathingtubes, trauma or clenching and grinding your teeth.

For some, TMJ goesaway without treatment, and they are the lucky ones. Others can reduce pain bywearing special orthodontic appliances, like night guards. Some even have asimilar appliance for daytime which is thinner and worn on the top teeth. Bothalleviate the pain. There are also surgical procedures, but they do not alwayswork.

Believe it or not, stress is a major factor for many TMJ patients.Teens today are more stressed out than ever before, with several hours ofhomework each night, pressure from parents and teachers about colleges, andeveryday stresses that come from just being a teen. It's hard to relax! Add allthis pressure to the symptoms of TMJ, and you have one ailing teen.

So, ifyou have some of these symptoms, you may have TMJ, and you're not alone. You canalleviate pain not only with medicine but also by trying to relax. Sometimesexercise helps to reduce the stress and tension. Focusing the tension that causesthe pain on something else is a good way of alleviating pain. Reducing as muchstress as possible is the key to living normally. TMJ affects millions, but youdon't have to let it affect you.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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