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Light at the end of the tunnel
It occurred to me that these strange muscle movements must be related to TMD because the sensation and pain was mostly located around the jaw area when it reached the tipping point. I consider this as lucky because if the spasms happened somewhere else I would not have linked the two so quickly.
In desperation, while I was still in A&E, my mother decided to email Dr Lee asking advice on two important points: 1) whether the symptoms I was experiencing were related to TMD and 2) if so, whether it was possible to treat it here if we bought the available medical devices that he was using at his clinic. Within hours, he replied and said that he suspects Dystonia and advised to stop using the dental splints. He told us that for over 10 years when he first became a doctor he had used dental splints for treatments but he found that long term use led to negative effects. He said that for the last 10 years he has been using intraoral devices designed by himself. He also mentioned that the devices are helpful but recommended treatment at his clinic for a few months for faster recovery. It was the most helpful answer that anyone had given to me and what he said made sense. It was the first time I had ever heard of Dystonia but at least I now knew what the spasms were.
Unfortunately, even after finding out that Dystonia was not life threatening , my body and mental state was still on a rocky ride. My mum sent another email while I was in A&E saying that we will be going for treatment. Thankfully, he sent a reply listing temporary therapies (CRI and CV4 techniques of CST) that will relieve some symptoms. 1 October 2013, I was discharged from the hospital and we tried the suggested therapies using different equipment at home. Although it did not resolve the spasms completely, it improved a little. The same day we booked flights for that evening and we headed to the airport with the help of my friends. The ten hour flight felt like the longest journey and what was worse than the pain was fear of the unknown. I told my mum that I was sorry for being so arrogant and thanked her for all her help in case something went wrong and I could never see her again. I think the fear had gotten the better of me.
Thankfully, we landed and I was still alive . We took a taxi from there and travelled 2 hours from Incheon airport to the clinic. It was about 7pm when we got there and although it was past closing time, Dr Lee had kindly waited for us. He had also arranged a studio flat for us to stay next to the clinic.
In our first consultation he began by explaining how TMJ Dysfunction leads to other disorders including Dystonia and various tests to diagnose TMD (other than xray) for 20 minutes. Then he spent a further 10 minutes to carry out the tests and it was clear my TMJ was out of balance. Afterwards, he gave me a type of mouth guard (made of flexible silicon material) called OBA (Occlusion balancing appliance) which is one of the standard type devices. As soon as I wore it, I noticed I felt some difference and immediately he asked me this question “Out of 10, how much has your pain decreased by?”. I answered “7”… Straight away, I had to double check because just seconds before wearing it I was in so much pain that I could not help myself from frowning. I had seen videos of other cases beforehand and I noticed that he asked every patient the same question immediately after wearing the device. In the videos they would always answer between 50 – 90%. My first thought after watching them was, they made the videos so they could advertise the clinic and must have edited them carefully to make it look convincing. But, when he actually asked me 7 out of 10 was my definite answer.
On that day, I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel and I was about to embark on a journey towards hope.
(The rest of the story is carried on in ‘Diary during Treatment’)