Fractured Facade

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Under Pressure

Some of you already know, but for the stray reader who happens upon this blog and doesn't, my teen aged daughter has been suffering from headaches for months. Actually, it's not "headaches" but one continuous headache that varies in intensity. I've said from the beginning that I thought it was because she was under pressure. She disagreed saying through clenched teeth, "I'm not stressed!" I reminded her of when it all began...soon after securing a role in her high school's production of Peter Pan.

It was her first speaking/singing/acting role and she loved every minute of it. Every minute included working til midnight in rehearsals most nights for about two months. Her days began at 5:45am. She attended two high schools. The first one is a Mass Communication center whose classes began at 7:15. After three classes she'd drive to the second school and closed off her day at around 3:30pm when she wasn't in the play. All her classes are Advanced Placement ones which means AP tests as well as SAT's. I noticed as her Spanish 4 grade began to plummet her headaches increased. Let it be known, I was not on her case about her grades. She was the one who insisted she needed a 4.0 and a high SAT score...both impossible to achieve with a constant mind-numbing headache.

To be on the safe side we made the round of doctors. First she saw an emergency doctor at her primary's office. She suggested her eyes needed to be checked. We did that. Nothing was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested she get an MRI. Thankfully nothing major was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested she see an ENT specialist. Nothing major was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested we see a neurologist. The next available appointment was at the end of August. I hoped once school ended the pressure would be off and the headache would go away.

School ended, the pressure is off but the headache remained. So it was with great joy that I received a call from the neurologist's office yesterdy saying they had a cancellation today, asking if we wanted the appointment. Yes! After repeating her medical history for the umpteenth time, signing away my life, giving her what looked like a sobriety test as well as other balance tests he put his hands on the side of her face up by her jaw and pressed. "Does this hurt?" "Ouch!" And just like that he came up with the diagnosis...tension headaches.

Apparently she unconsciously is tensing her jaw and grinding her teeth while she sleeps. This action has caused the muscles to become sore radiating pain in her ears and through her head. She has to stay away from caffeine (she does love Mt. Dew) and gum, has to massage her jaw and slack it when she feels it tightening. He recommends a mouth guard for night and one pill a day for a month to relax her. He's so sure this is going to work that he doesn't even want a follow-up.

I feel positive this is going to work too. I know so many other teenagers that are going through the same thing as my daughter and it's from the pressure. It's tough being a teenager. The doctor said you wouldn't find this diagnosis or treatment many places (true, I've Googled her symptoms a million times) but it comes from his over 30 years experience. I told him I agreed with him that it was due to tension but would never have thought it was coming from her jaw muscles. He said, "Well, you haven't been practicing medicine as long as I have." I replied, "No, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Fingers are crossed...


  1. She is in my prayers Elena. Sleeping with a mouthguard sounds like it will take some time to get used to--I hope she adjusts quickly.

  2. Hi! I had a bought with TMJ some years ago and it was very painful. One thing that did help was I mentioned it to my chiropractor and got relief immediately. You might give that a try.