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ask: Why would your face feel bruised when it is not? TMJ or something else?

By Michelle King Robson Expert HERWriter
 
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Today a good friend of mine was telling me about how one side of her face feels like it has a massive bruise on it but when she went to look at it in the mirror to see if she had bumped herself or something it looked totally normal. But whenever she touches it it hurts, and it even hurts to talk on the phone if the phone brushes up against it. She said it's her right side, mostly in the cheekbone area.

I've had issues with TMJ in the past and she said a dentist once told her she clenches her teeth at night but she's never been diagnosed. Her face is not hot or swollen or anything, just sore to the touch.

I told her I'd post her story on here and see what we can find out for her. Has anyone ever experienced this and if so, what did it turn out to be? I'd love to give her some direction if we can because not knowing what is causing this pain is really bothering her. Thank you so much everyone! Michelle

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

What's about intraocular pressure and bruxism? I think they are related ...

May 4, 2010 - 9:35am
nollyb

I think I have the same problem but it is on the left side of my face. I had this problem before but the inside of my ear started hurting also so I went to an ENT, he told me that he did not see anything wrong with my ear but he suggested that it could be a problem with my sinus and also it might be a problem I had with one of my teeth which had a hole. So he gave me something for the sinus and I went to the dentist and did something about the teeth. But lately the same problem started happening all over again.

April 19, 2010 - 7:33pm
Michelle King Robson Expert HERWriter

Hi Diane,

Wow! Thank you so much for this amazing post! I am going to print it out and show it to my friend and I know she will be so grateful to you. I was also wondering if her sinuses might be causing the problem but she's not the type to ever get sinus infections or anything so I too figured it was the jaw clenching. She even showed me how her lower jaw/gums have grown larger, right behind her bottom teeth. Her dentist explained to her that the jaw knows when it is dealing with pressure from teeth clenching and so it will grow extra bone in response, to better deal with it. This just blew me away--how smart are our own bodies? I will keep you posted on what she finds out. Thank you again Diane--you rock! Big hugs, Michelle

July 20, 2009 - 11:09pm
Diane Porter

Michelle,

Sounds like your friend probably needs to go back to the dentist, and explore whether she's grinding her teeth at night. One of my dear friends had symptoms almost exactly like this and when she went to get it checked out, that's what she learned. In fact when she went to a dentist about it later, he was able to show her with dental instruments where she was actually grinding down the tops of her molars. She got divorced a couple of years ago and is in a business that has taken a lot of job cuts, plus she's a very busy person, and she thinks that the combined stress of all of that is what got it started.

She was fitted for a mouth guard that she wears as she sleeps and it stops the grinding, which stops the pain.

Here's a very good story from the Washington Post about teeth grinding, which is called bruxism and affects about 10 percent of us:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/19/AR200809...

Grinding our teeth can cause headaches, jaw pain, damaged (even fractured) teeth, earaches and insomnia. The pain can be on both sides, one side or go back and forth, just depending on how we grind our teeth. (Sorta like we all have one side of the mouth that we use to chew most often.)

Here's the Mayo Clinic's page on bruxism, with blue links down the left side that lead to info on symptoms, causes and treatment:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bruxism/DS00337

And the National Institutes of Health has great information on this:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001413.htm

That page also offers some self-care steps that your friend can do at home to help relieve the pain until she sees someone about it:

--Apply ice or wet heat to sore jaw muscles. Either can have a beneficial effect.
--Avoid eating hard foods like nuts, candies, steak.
--Drink plenty of water every day.
--Get plenty of sleep.
--Learn physical therapy stretching exercises to help restore a normal balance to the action of the muscles and joints on each side of the head.
--Massage the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and face. Search carefully for small, painful nodules called trigger points that can cause pain throughout the head and face.
--Relax your face and jaw muscles throughout the day. The goal is to make facial relaxation a habit.
--Try to reduce your daily stress and learn relaxation techniques.

Since your friend mentioned that it felt like she had a big bruise there, I'm going to assume that the pain she felt was sort of dull and throbbing as opposed to sharp or stabbing. And I'm also assuming that it's not a sinus infection; usually people who get those know the feeling and recognize it when it comes. Other than an obvious injury to the face, the jaw is probably the most probable culprit. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) opens and closes right below where your friend describes her pain.

There are a couple of cautions here, good ones, from About.com:

"When to Contact a Medical Professional
• Face pain is accompanied by chest, shoulder, neck, or arm pain. This could mean a heart attack. Call your local emergency number (such as 911).
• Pain is throbbing, worse on one side of the face, and aggravated by eating. Call a dentist.
• Pain is persistent, unexplained, or accompanied by other unexplained symptoms. Call your primary health care provider."

There's much more information on that page, including a set of questions the doctor or dentist will probably ask:

http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/Face-pain.htm

Hope some of this helps your friend! Ongoing pain with no explanation is not only annoying, it's sometimes frightening. I hope when she gets checked out that she finds out it's a simple thing that can easily be fixed.

July 20, 2009 - 9:07am
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