Although migraines are recognized as one of the most disabling illnesses in the world, many people with them find that their discomfort and disability aren’t recognized. In particular, people with chronic migraines, defined as occurring 15 or more days per month, are seen as being lazy or as using their migraines as an excuse to get out of work. People with TMJ may have it as bad or worse because TMJ is not as well known as migraines, causing more perception that the condition somehow isn’t real.
We all have to work hard to educate ourselves and others about the severity of these conditions, and make sure that sufferers are aware of all potential treatments.
The Stigma of Migraines
People with migraines have a hard time communicating that their migraine is not just a headache. Many of us treat migraines as if they are just headaches, but they’re not. Migraines are a neurological condition that manifests partly as a headache, but extends far beyond the pain. There are other symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds that can make it very hard to keep working. In fact, some people experience what are known as “silent migraines” migraine attacks that don’t actually include a headache. There are abdominal migraines, optical migraines, and many other types of migraines that affect other parts of the body, including the limbs. And when head pain occurs, it is typically much more severe than your average headache.
Migraine sufferers may experience a prodrome, a period of extended fatigue, inability to think or remember, and/or emotional instability that may occur a day or more before the actual headache.
It’s hard for people without migraines to understand the condition, so they don’t empathize with what the other person is feeling. Migraine sufferers find it hard to hold down a job, and they often bounce from position to position or remain unemployed. Migraine stigma is relatively high, much higher than for epilepsy, which can also be disabling.
TMJ Gets Stigma, Too
Just like migraines, TMJ is an illness that can cause a much wider range of symptoms than most people suspect. People may think of it as a jaw pain, but the symptoms can spread through the body, and may be disabling, especially if they include a migraine, as can often happen with TMJ.
Another problem TMJ sufferers have is that few people know about TMJ. Migraines are well known and people have at least a vague sense of what they are. With TMJ, there are few people who are familiar with the condition at all, let alone fully understand it.
Treatment Can Improve Ability
If you are struggling with migraines, it’s important to try many types of treatments to try to alleviate symptoms and improve your ability to function in your daily life. People whose doctors have given up on their migraines should consider TMJ treatment to see if they can finally find relief.