Eons ago, while I was on a journey through the Far East, a practitioner of the mystic, manipulative arts foretold I would experience dark times later in life. Specifically with my left shoulder.

Okay, so she was the masseuse at the Shangri-la Hotel in Hong Kong back in 2006, but she turned out to be eerily accurate.

Avoiding certain sleeping positions helps minimize the pain.  Said sleeping positions include (but are not limited to): lying on my left side, lying on my right side, lying on my stomach, lying on my back using a pillow that is either slightly too large or too small, sleeping without a pillow, and falling asleep in a chair or on a couch, plane, train, or car.  As I said, avoiding them helps but sometimes I’ll forget – like, say, when I’m sleeping.  As  a result, there are times when I wake up so sore I have to use my one good arm to haul myself out of bed.

I find Tylenol or Advil help to a certain degree.  Bourbon seems to be more effective.  Also, an alternate pain source serves as a terrific distraction.  This I discovered last week when I started experiencing an intermittent ache in my left ear which I attributed to (aka blamed on) Akemi’s recent bout with tonsillitis.  But I had no other symptoms.  No sore throat.  No coughing.  Just a dull ache in my left ear that would strike for a few seconds, then disappear for minutes, sometimes hours, before returning.

Finally fed up, I went to see the doctor.  He checked my ears, checked my throat, checked my nose.  And then, smiling knowingly, pressed his fingers up against either side of my jaw.  “Does this hurt?”he asked, applying equal pressure to both hinges.  “Yes!”I said.  “More on your right side?”  Yes again.

Apparently, I suffer from TMJ, temporomandibular joint syndrome.

Prognosis: My ear hurts because of the stress I place on my jaw by grinding my teeth at night.

Treatment: I have to go see my dentist about a night time retainer.

I mean, come on!  Next thing you know, they’ll be outfitting me with a special trapeze and swing to treat my shoulder!

Finally, thanks to those who’ve been asking about Akemi.  She completes her antibiotics today and her throat is no longer sore.  HOWEVER, her lymph nodes are still swollen and that has made it very difficult for her to sleep at night.  Lately, she’s been following the same routine: coming to bed and coughing up a storm, elevating herself with pillows to no avail, and then eventually giving up and heading downstairs where she spends the night on the couch, half-sleeping, half watching youtube videos.

The dogs, however, are fine!  Lulu still has her back issues that have slowed her down, but we’re going to follow up with a visit to the neurologist when we get back to Vancouver.  Suji, meanwhile, heads to the vet on Monday for a little out-patient procedure to remove a suspicious lump on her back.  Better safe than sorry!

And that’s the update on our walking wounded.  What’re the latest aches and pains in your neck of the woods?

36 thoughts on “May 6, 2017: Aches and Pains!

  1. Poor Akemi, sending healing thoughts.

    I had TMJ, got the retainer, spit it out on my sleep nightly. Not covered by insurance, so I won’t throw it out because it was expensive. Can’t use it. But I had a back molar removed after years of work on it, root canal, crowns, so on. Never got the replacement implant. No longer being my teeth at night. Here’s hoping you have better luck!

    Aches and pains. Ha. Had laser eye surgery to break up my floaters. More successful than not. Going to be tested to see if I qualify for an eyelid lift, they sit on my eyelashes now. May have a new hernia, related to the four surgeries last year. My short gut makes digestion interesting. My lower back aches, and I have mild arthritis in my hands and feet. I am usually tired. But on the bright side, I am not prediabetic anymore, my cholesterol is under control, no prehypertension, and no cancer. My asthma has vanished. I count that as a win.

  2. TMJ, eh? Have you had the “ice-pick headaches” that go along with that? I get bouts of them once in a while from TMJ, which feel just like they sound like – someone rammed an ice-pick through your skull. Luckily, the pain only lasts for a few seconds, but it’s sometimes enough to actually stop me in my tracks and grab my head. It’s not a tumour! When it isn’t the ice-pick clusters, it’s pain around or behind my eye. Relax that jaw!

    I share the shoulder pain, usually bouncing back and forth between rotator cuff pain (from my fall in the mountains last fall) or trapezius muscles from too much slouching, using the computer (it’s my job!), and generally not training them enough.

    I’ve had bouts of lower back pain in the QL muscles (see sitting at computer, above), which is often pretty painful. You know what the doctor said to me – “You know what your problem is – you’ve got ‘old man back'”. I said I begged to differ because I was still very active. Amidst his laughing, he said that just because you drive a car every day doesn’t mean it’s not going to wear out. He’s such a bundle of joy, that fella.

    So… getting old sucks.

    Sometimes after a respiratory infection, I’ll get a “post-viral cough”, which is what Akemi’s issue sounds like. Mine usually takes up to a month to go away!

  3. Very sorry about Akemi’s and Your aches/pains. It takes a while to get rid of “the crud”. I hope you don’t catch it. Be careful which tooth brush you use. 🙂

    As we get older, aches and pains become more common. We were talking about that the other day. We don’t bounce back as fast now. Remember how after a strenuous workout and waking up sore, we’d get moving and shake it off through the day? Now, being sick or sore will sure make us feel our age!

    As for my aches and pains, I’ll just say, thank God for OTC pain killers! If I ever start feeling sorry for myself, I think of Dr Jo.

    Oh yes, the latest on Dr. Jo is the radiation caused an aneurysm in her carotid artery. Is she upset? No, she said she’s just peachy. (laughing about it even) She’d rather die of an aneurysm than cancer. Dr’s are going to try and repair the artery. We’ll see.

    You probably know this but if TMJ is bothering you, don’t eat anything chewy for a while. (I’ve had it for years. How did you NOT notice the jaw clicking?) I do hope all of Y’all bounce back soon!

  4. These days, it’d be easier to list the parts that don’t hurt than the ones that do.

    My left pinkie toe feels just fine, everything else has gone to hell.

  5. You’re getting old. Just like the rest of us.

    My knees are a bit dodgy which precludes any sort of running. That makes getting enough exercise difficult.

    My eyes are deteriorating at an alarming rate. I will be wearing reading glasses very soon I suspect.

    It takes me several weeks to fully get over a cold when it used to only take a week.

    Getting old sucks! Youth is wasted on the young.

    Still, I know several people with chronic, debilitating illnesses. Compared to them I’m at peak health so I count my blessings every day.

  6. It’s a condition (TMJ) known to affect certain guitarists, too (especially if they clench their teeth when they play solos). Joe Satriani was diagnosed with it back in the early 90s.

  7. Welcome to the party, Joe. I’ve worn a night guard for seven years. It’s the preferred treatment over having jaw surgery or orthodontia that might not help and might make things worse.

    If you have a choice, look for a dentist or orthodontist who specializes in TMJ pain management. Will look up the US TMJ pain mgmt. directory and email it to you.

  8. I hear ya on the shoulder. I have bursitis in both of mine, and one seems to get better as the other gets worse. My left has been painful for about a year now, while the right side is pretty quiet. I’m a side sleeper, and I can only sleep on my right, and I have to balance my left arm just so, so it doesn’t hurt. Until I fall asleep, the arm falls, and it wakes me up again. I usually find myself on my back in the morning.

    I think, based on my range of motion and where it hurts when I move certain ways, I had a small tear. I’ve been doing yoga for a few months, and my range of motion is much greater than it was when I started, but I still can’t move it certain ways.

  9. I wondered why, a few weeks ago, the dentist put his hands on both sides of my face, pressed, and asked “do you have any discomfort?” I said no.

    I ran across something of interest concerning Phoenix Comicon(May 25-28). I was checking for writer’s panels and scifi related panels and came across this panel scheduled for the first night(May 25) of the con..The Expanse: When Science on TV is Done Right. Cas should be happy, but he’s not a scheduled guest. Joe, do you have an opinion about the topic of the panel?

    One of the panelists is Dr David Williams, an adjunct professor at Arizona State University, works with the Goddard Spaceflight Center at NASA, and a HUGE Star Trek fan.

    Has Akemi’s tonsillitis cleared? I’m glad Lulu and Suji have great doggie parents.

  10. The weather has been really bad for joints here.

    You said two things today that made me think “I wonder if Joe has hypermobility type Ehlers Danlos syndrome” (TMJ and joint pain from sleeping). It seems I’ve wondered that before — might have been the chest pain or hip pain or both together. Your skin is too light to have “the look” because it’d be a little translucent if you had EDS and give the illusion of typical texturing.

    Men have an easier time with it, with the extra muscle. My nephew has done great as an adult, but he’d dislocate his hip while sleeping when younger. I’d expect there’s a point in getting older when the extra muscle protection starts wearing off.

    Things are cool at work. I wrote a haiku about the lead programmer’s abstractions.

    When I grok your code
    You will be revealed
    genius or lunatic

    I tried to teach the dog to stunt fight. She got where she could do a flying double paw strike to the side of my knee to drop me and get my hand near, then pull me down by my hand. She was learning quite well that victory humps aren’t allowed, but that’s about when she lost interest. Either she was frightened of her own power or was distracted by a child with an ice cream sandwich.

  11. Your shoulder pain sounds like a torn rotator cuff. Mine started hurting 3 yrs ago, had to give up my bed and sleep in a recliner. It wasn’t completely torn.. tried pt, steroid shots, more pt. Last year I fell and it is completely torn (MRI done). Anyway, was ready for surgery when I realized it wasn’t getting worse pain wise. So I delayed. 5 mos later, no worse, manageable. I probably will never be back in a bed due to disk issues, but at least my shoulder is doing better. PT helped.

  12. Hi Joe
    As others have said already, the list of things that don’t hurt would be shorter…. Getting old is a pain in the a$$.


  13. Yep, my aches and pains are going strong. I sleep on my right side all night. In the morning I can barely walk to the bathroom. Seems my internal organs shift over to the right during the night and my back really hurts in the morning. But it does not take long to walk and stretch it off. Can’t take aspirin, advil or aleve regularly or I have bleeding in my diverticulosis stomach. Of course breaking my leg and tearing up my knee a few years ago makes me walk like an 80 year old. I always planned on retiring early. I decided to go at the end of this year, 3 days short of my 59th birthday. Really looking forward to it.

    Hope Akemi gets to feeling better. I am almost well after having back-to-back crap that lasted about 8-10 weeks. It was mostly the coughing and congestion hanging on to the bitter end.

  14. @ Tam – Did you get your son home from college? What year is he in now? Time flies.

  15. Sorry to hear about yours and Akemi’s health issues. Sending positive energy your way that they all resolve themselves.

    What I find useful to minimise coughing at night or if I have to go somewhere is Putting Vicks Vaporub on the soles of my feet and then putting socks on. I was sceptical when I first heard of this remedy but when I tried it I found it really helped. I love Vicks anyway. It reminds me of my Mum. She would put it on me when I was sick as a child.

    With regard to your sleeping position, have you ever thought of getting those adjustable beds. They fascinate me. Of course you would need to have a more permanent home for that investment. Otherwise I wonder if acupuncture would work. Oh and cherries help with pain management (thanks Ivon for that tip).

    You might find it improves with warmer weather.

    One thing I’ve found not being in an office daily and keeping to myself at home is that I haven’t suffered any colds. It’s been great!

    Cheers, Chev

  16. Oh my gosh! And here’s me thinking I’d got it hard, with two of my fingers on my left hand numb and dented after my mischievous pup, Puddle, dropped an engineering brick (from a height!) onto my hand, when I was on all fours weeding! (Don’t ask!!)

    I used to be all hunched, creaking n hobbling, in the way that most older gardeners are. My waking up in the morning was like ‘The ascent of Man’ – emerging out of bed like a Neanderthal, knuckles scrapping the floor. Gradually as I made my way to the bathroom, straightening up as I went, til I got to the bathroom sink, a homo-erectus. I regularly visited an osteopath, who put various parts of me back in the right place. And when I informed him I was taking up (target) archery, I fully expected to get a lecture on how one sided the sport was and how it would cause more harm than good …. But nope. All he said was ‘I won’t be seeing you again, then!’ That was four years ago. It’s a very effective stress buster too!

    P’raps Joe, you should take up something like fencing, stick fighting (or archery). You never know … It may stop you grinding your teeth too! 😁

  17. Sorry to hear Akemi is still dicky from her tonsillitis. Glands still up does mean she’s still fighting infection. Maybe check with docs, as she may need some extra antibiotics to finish the infection off once and for all?

  18. Hi Joe. I have TMJ and it was weird when it first happened but now I just block it out because I know I don’t have to worry, and it only plays up with stress. Retainer is a waste. I take codeine and the pain goes away. G’luck!

  19. North America is home to the wonderful art of chiropractics! Here on the other side of the pond, I trust a chiropractor from Palmer College, USA. Go find a chiropractor to help with your shoulder and jaw: https://www.chiropractic.ca/ Incidentally, they have an article about TMJ pain on their main page. Grinding teeth at night often results from stress and can also be linked to other areas of tension in the body. In general, pain can be the body’s way of signalling that it has been overstressed. As for the retainer, as far as I know it’s basically teeth protection. I don’t think it tackles the causes of grinding teeth. If there are retainers that actually prevent you from grinding teeth I’d be interested in reading about that on your blog. Anyway, it is important that the retainer is well-adjusted. Get well soon to all of you!

  20. Aside from the minor arthritis, occasional back issues and flare up of the ‘too much information’ issue, and considering I’m about to turn (redacted), I’m doing pretty well. Truly hope your and yours heal up soon!

  21. Ponytail: Did I read that right about you retiring at the end of this year?! Awesome!
    Thanks for asking about our son, Evan. This was his junior. One more year, I hope and he’ll be finished. He’s majoring in Computer Science with a minor in French. Yes, we got him moved out of his apartment. I’m going through the boxes now and organizing/cleaning things. He threw things in a box and taped them up. (no rhyme nor reason) It offends my OCD…. 😉
    I thought it would take another trip to get everything but my hubby is a great packer.
    How’s your mom and dad feeling?

    Did you have dinner with JeffW last night? I hope you y’all had time to meet up this trip. How many more days until the Vancouver? Hey, you’ll get to re-discover all the fun eateries again!

  22. Sorry to hear about your TMJ at least it is not TBI. (A story that I have related bits of.) A long slog that is, but I hope to be returning to work soon. They say a year is a short time. At least I can share stories with my neighbor who suffered a stroke/anorism about the same time. About pain, I have heard a lot of ads by radio showhost Hugh Hewitt and others on “Releif Factor”. Hugh says he cannot take Releive and others but he relies on it for what its worth. IF it helps it is worth the time to investigate. About my TBI, I do work out regularly at the gym. It helps with stretching the right arm and shoulder. I am storting to use more weights and getting sore in a good way. I don’t like the bums who pass by while I am lying on the matted area with no heed to my location. Things are looking up as I now jog for 10 minutes a time and look to expand my time on the tread mill. Balance was the issue. Other issues for therapy are cognitive thought which reading and responding to this web site helps remedy. Writing does too, but that is putting pen to paper. Well hope you get a remedy for your TMJ as sleep cannot be under rated. Best wishes and speedy recovery for you and Akemi. Oh I saw a fox run through the yard this morning, good the dog was inside as the fox was twice its size and looking for a meal. The neighborhood has to many missing dog signs already.

  23. I have a night time retainer and I love that thing. Prevents heavy migraines and headaches for me and will keep my teeth from splitting apart in the long run. It also prevents my jaw, neck, shoulders and eventually my back from cramping up. Give it a try, but the thing should be done by a specialist, because otherwise the effects won’t be as good or even negative. Unfortunately for you this means several trips to the doctor. These things have to be filed down to exactly your jaw position, your jaw clenching and your teeth. They should also not hurt!
    I don’t sleep without mine anymore and I’m glad I have one of these.
    Be happy about it Joe. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s a rather easy fix. Better than taking antibiotics or not being able to sleep at night 😉

    Oh and one more thing. You should go to a good doctor whom you trust to have your bones set into place from the bottom up. Do this before you go to the dentis. This sounds crazy, but if your bones aren’t set, it will make your whole body be crooked and it will also have an effect on your jaw and the issue at hand. That might be your main problem btw. Especially when you have had long time problems with your shoulder. I personally hate chiropracters, because so far I have not met a single competent one in 26 years. I prefer well schooled general doctors or in this case an osteopath, because they are schooled to look at the whole body and not just in fixing a single broken bone.
    Best of luck to you. But I’m sure you’ll be fine real quick and you’ll be suprised how well the retainer works.
    And get well soon to Akemi.

  24. Good lord… I just read the comment and I’m glad I’m still young, haha. Even though I’ve had my fair share of doctors appointments. I have the typical, “you sit too much infront of the pc” – lower back issues and my knees are starting to hurt, too, but other than that. I think I mind my random migraines the most, because they make me really unproductive and it’s a pain I can’t ignore.
    This post just makes me want to live even more healthy 😀

  25. I keep repeatedly staying I’m too young at 50 to feel this old. Had both my eyes injected Thursday for my ocular histoplasmosis (POHD) which causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina which in turn are fragile and leak fluid/blood which causes loss of vision. Been battling it since 1996. Currently on my 33rd injection in each eye. Then on Friday I had my 3rd set of epidurals at L4-5, L5-S1. Hoping to hold any more invasive procedures at bay for awhile. Pretty much ignored my symptoms until my right leg gave out in me last October while stepping up unto a curb. In addition to the embarrassment, I discovered that my right leg had significantly gotten weaker. I had to use a nearby tree to crawl up into standing. Really how often do I do a straight leg raise or march in my daily routine? Now I’m in PT and exercising – strengthening and stretching. Leg is getting stronger.

    Had shoulder surgery 7 yrs ago for an instability. Biceps tendon was pulling off the humerus. Once you get back home, I’d recommend a trip to the orthopedist. There are some simple tests to confirm if a rotator cuff vs impingement vs bone spur vs …. A MRI may be helpful as well. Are you loosing strength or range of motion in the shoulder? In the meantime, don’t prop through your elbow, don’t sleep with your arm across your chest or overhead. Lighten your load. No lazy man carries. Work on your posture. Sleep with head and shoulders slightly elevated on pillows or wedge with a pillow under your arm. Ice. Anti-inflammatories – if no stomach problems, ulcers etc….

    You can use a sport/football retainer until you can get to the dentist for a fitted one.

    Hope you are feeling better soon. Hope Akemi continues to progress in her recovery. Go pups!!

  26. Akemi is still sick?? Poor thing! That is really hanging on. Hope you all get better pronto!

  27. Joe: Unless your doctor fears you might have a more serious condition,
    you can simply order a custom made over the counter night guard to save yourself a time consuming trip to the dentist for one.

    (The dentists office usually just has a tech/assistant or sometimes a newbie in training take an impression of your teeth to send off to a lab.
    You can actually do this at home these days.)

    There are plenty of labs to choose from like the example linked to here.
    Many are cost competitive and will make adjustments for you
    free of charge until the fit is perfect.


    It is highly recommended to look up ALL symptoms of sleep apnea before deciding to go this DIY route.
    If you have 2 or more symptoms of sleep apnea, most doctors advise against the use of a simple night guard because it can make it worse.
    Albeit, if the night grinding is a simple case of bad habit from stress,
    this solution usually works out pretty well.

    Hope Akemi begins to feel much better soon, Suji’s little lump proves benign and you have a lovely visit with your mom.

  28. forgot to add, If you should decide to go the DIY route, its always best to look for a lab offering “acrylic” guards.

  29. Hi birdyincanada! Hm, schooled to look at the whole body is just about the essence of what a chiropractor does (similar to osteopathy). I am sorry to hear that you have not had a good experience with chiropractics. It puzzles me if your chiropractors should not have done that. But: In Europe there is a distinction between true chiropractors (holistic approach to the body, specialist for the holistic relations within the body, has studied this in special colleges for years and ideally many years of experience as a practitioner, can e.g. treat blockades in the nervous system) versus chirotherapists (orthopaedic doctor with weekend training in chiropactics which sounds more like the bone-cracking you describe to me). So are you sure you went to see a true chiropractor? It may be an issue that the term is not protected, thus my recommendation to go via their official association. There may also be differences in methods depending on their college (mine is from Palmer). Anyways, there are good and bad apples in any profession so checking rating websites for medical practitioners would help. I second your recommendation to go for holistic physical therapy and your thought that this might affect the fit of the retainer. However therapy can take some time, so if teeth are already sustaining physical damage or doctors think the retainer can relieve pressure on the joints for the time being (if that’s possible?) it may still be preferable to get one asap. I have also heard a lot of good things about osteopathy, but for me it had no effect while chiropractics did (reshaped posture; once had a wrist pain which was eliminated by a single grip). So I guess the fun is in trying out for yourself what method & practitioner fits you best! Oh my, this blog has become very medical 🙂

  30. And birdyincanada, your retainer actually seems to relieve pressure. May I ask you what kind of retainer you got to get such a good result? Thanks so much!

  31. To save yourself hundreds, you can buy a do it yourself night guard in the oral hygiene aisle at your big box store. It may not be as perfectly fitted, but then I don’t have to worry if I lose it or break it.

  32. Missed the tonsillitis bout. Glad Akemi is feeling better. The night guard for the TMJ will help. I had a bout of that when my stress levels were their highest back in about 2004-2006.

    Have you tried acupuncture of your shoulder? After having left shoulder impingement, I have a set of exercises they have me do (I can send those to you), and what I find helps the most is to find a feather pillow (a small one that you can put the length of your side of your body and lay it on top. It seems to keep the pain in check.

    If you see how I have to sleep you would laugh. I’m very serious about that. I won’t post that picture publicly but I had to take one for my PT to make sure everything was in alignment.

    As far as aches and pains, there really isn’t a spot on my entire body that isn’t in pain. Too many things to list. Professionals who have seen the list usually ask me “And how is it that you are functioning every day?” That is never a good thing to hear from a professional.

    I’m sorry you are hurting. 🙁

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