TMJ or Heart Attack?

I have what seems like a really dumb question, but it is driving me crazy.
I am 62 yrs. old, and am around 10 lbs. overweight, but I do some exercise and never eat red meat or fried foods. I am what you might call a "health nut" taking many supplements each day, and keep my cholesterol down to a fair number.
When I was 32 yrs. old, I was in a terrible accident that smashed my jaw against a hard front seat, giving me TMJ for years. I finally got it taken care of by a smart dentist, who made me a plastic mouth guard to be worn at night. Now, I can't wear it anymore due to some dental procedures over the years.
Now, here lately, I feel that the TMJ has returned, but it concerns me because I have an ache in my left jaw off and on. My neck gets stiff, and the bone around my shoulder is very sore and it acts like a pinched nerve, but could also be pain radiating down my arm.
My question to all you smart do you tell the difference between the jaw pain and arm pain that accompanies a heart attack from the pain that comes with TMJ. Please try to explain the difference.
I have a doctor appt. next week, but am wondering if I should even wait that long. Also, my blood pressure seems to be creeping up on me. I used to have very low BP, but now it is a little above normal.
This thing about symptoms of women's heart attacks can drive you crazy because it is all so vague. Thank you for any help you can give me.


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There is no way for us to tell. If you polled everyone on this site you'd find as many experiences of their Heart Attack as there are people including some who didn't even know they had had one. The key is to listen to your body and if there's any question at all, get it checked out.

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Thank you, TyTy....I am going to do that because things like this can drive you crazy, especially with all the talk shows talking about the symptoms of a woman's heart attack.

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Hi Carol Elaine,

I've had TMJ for 30+ years which began abruptly around age 20, with a huge, huge yawn, although I will note that it also conincided with sexual maturity (if you know what I mean), AND I have something called Cervical Ribs. They are called "accessory ribs". One in 1000 people or more have them as they are a congenital abnormality. Sometimes they are bone, sometimes they are ligament. Mine were visible on xray, but CI or MRI gives a much clearer picture. Obviously, I had these all my life and I was quite active and physical, yet always had a stiff neck, neck problems. They were never properly diagnosed until I saw the comment on a CT report - even the doctor missed it. Of course, the TMJ also added to that with clicking, popping, pain. Took advil for years - much dental work, crowns, etc.

So, in my bio which you can read here, I give mention of that. It was hard to filter the differences, as you can be chased round and round the system for years looking for answers. What I can tell you now, at the ripe age of 56, with CP, and with several diagnoses under my belt...

TMJ was best treated with an osteopath, who gently balanced my entire body from toe to top of head. I see him weekly still, to keep me out of crises. I learned that my neck bones do not fit together "right" - sort of like a badly fit together machine, so they are more vulnerable and weak than most.

My TMJ is gone - as long as my body balance is maintained, now that my body is sorted out to the best it can be, but it's not perfect. TMJ can cause the neck pain you describe and a traumatic accident would certainly do the trick. I have books and sites to recommend if you need them, as the dental/medical profession really doesn't have true, research based information on what does and doesn't work. is the most credible info I have found. I had braces for 5 years to "fix" the bite, crowns, you name it. Osteopathic balanced me, but first you need to rule out some things, like the cervical ribs, as they complicate the situation.

The cardiac chest pain is another issue and another story - but first, rule out the neck issue. Then, I'm happy to tell you what I know. Read my bio.

Best, Mary

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Thank you so much for the very interesting information. I have never thought about maybe being off balance, however, when I walk through my hallway after just having gotten out of bed, I am very unsteady. It feels like I just want to rest the back of my neck on something to keep it from bobbing up and down. lol
I will get on the website and find out what I need to know. My TMJ bothered me for over 20 yrs. until I had the plastic mouth guard made, but now, I can't use the ones in the drugstore because of my gag reflux. Each time I try to put it in my mouth and bite down, it gags me. Sometimes, I am just about ready to give up on being healthy. There are just too many things that can go wrong with a poor old body like mine. lol
Thanks again,...Hugs,


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Carole Elaine,

I want to clarify something. I did have chest pain from late 30s onward. I was referred round and round, GI, anxiety, GI, cardiac - all the standard tests. Finally, at age 52, I found out via cath with challenge, that I DO have MVD (from familial hyperlipedemia that looked normal on the superficial tests) that contributes to my CP. I ALSO had TMJ/neck issues. At times, I felt like I was having a heart attack, lots of angina symptoms. So, I actually travelled 3 parallel paths: Cardiac, TMJ, Neck/back/carpal tunnel. I got to the bottom of all three, but it cost me tens of thousands of dollars and many years. So while do not advocate ignoring the cardiac whatsoever, when you have several issues, a doctor, or multiple doctors, are not that tolerant and you can get dismissed pretty quickly.

A patient who goes in suggesting I could have this or this or this, is treated like a hypochondriac, particularly if you have inadequate testing or a crappy doctor or a test denying insurance. There is much suffering involved. While not ignoring any life threatening feeling symptoms, I would eliminate the non-life threatening issues first and get a handle on them, so those pains will not confuse you - or them. It's hard enough to be believed when it's "just" heart.

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I have had two custom splints made (big money) and neither worked. For some, they stabilize an off balance bite. Now that I am osteopathically balanced and I have lost two crowned far back molars due to root canal failure, my occlusion is resolved and I do not snap, crackle or pop. I have no more of those headaches and my neck aches are rare. Had I been osteopathically balanced first, and become very stable, I may never have needed the splints, or if I did, they might have worked.

When I say "balanced", I mean, our muscles, ligaments, bones, fascia all are part of the intricate dynamics of balanced tension and proper movement in the body. There are some links that would be helpful for you - the principles are a part of the "Sutherland" method. There are a wide variety of philosophies and methods, but this one has worked for me. The quality of the osteopath is also important. I went to a too agressive one who was into "re-making" and over adjusting my structure. I found an extremely subtle, gentle guy who's philosophy is always less, not more. Let the body find it's proper inherent stability, because the body has to maintain itself, right? With my cervical ribs, well, sometimes, you have have to live with nature's errors.

Don't give up! It's fantastic to have something like this resolved and live without the pain.
xox Mary

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Mary, thank you, once again.
I forgot to tell you that I have osteoporosis and scholosis, which has made me lose 4" of height. I have have had to have the radio frequency ablasion done on my back at least twice.
Could this be a part of my imbalance. I have already had several MRI's and many tests on my spine.

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