The Invisible Battle: The Emotional Toll of TMJD on Singers

The Invisible Battle: The Emotional Toll of TMJD on Singers
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) is a prevalent yet often misunderstood condition that affects millions of people worldwide, including many singers and music teachers. While its physical symptoms are well-documented, the emotional toll it has on vocalists remains largely unseen. Let's delve into the hidden struggles faced by singers battling TMJD, shedding light on an often-overlooked aspect of the music industry.

Understanding TMJD:
TMJD is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, causing symptoms such as jaw pain, stiffness, clicking or popping noises, headaches, and difficulty in opening or closing the mouth. For singers, whose livelihoods depend on the flexibility and precision of their vocal instrument, these symptoms can pose significant challenges. It can be a super scary place to be to not really understand what's physically happening!

The Emotional Impact:
Beyond the physical discomfort, TMJD can take a profound emotional toll on singers. The uncertainty of symptom flare-ups, the fear of compromised performances, the unknown of how long it will last, and the frustration of navigating a condition with no easy fix can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. I personally felt so alone in it often. I remember walking home from a choir concert on campus one night by myself because all of my friends went out for dessert afterwards but I was in too much pain to join them. I wrote more about these feelings in my chapter of The Truth About Finding Joy in the Darkness.

Navigating Treatment Options:
While treatment options for TMJD vary, singers often find themselves on a journey of trial and error as they seek relief. From physical therapy and dental appliances to medication and surgery, finding an effective treatment plan can be a daunting task. Dental professionals pawn it off on medical and vice versa. I experienced that over the course of 5 years before finding solutions (on my own) to provide relief.

Finding Support:
In the face of these challenges, many singers find solace in connecting with others who understand their journey. Online support groups, vocal coaches experienced in working with TMJD patients, and sharing experiences with fellow artists can provide much-needed support and encouragement. I'd be happy to be a sounding board or resource for you! I created TMJ Strong for this very reason.

The emotional toll of TMJD on singers may be invisible to the outside world, but its impact is undeniable. By raising awareness of this often-overlooked aspect of the music industry, we can foster greater empathy and understanding for those facing this invisible battle. To all the singers grappling with TMJD, know that you are not alone, and your strength in the face of adversity is commendable.

Do you struggle with TMJ pain? Or do you love someone who does? How does it take a toll on you emotionally?

What IS TMJ anyway?

What IS TMJ anyway?!

Great question! I'm glad you asked. :)

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, aka your jaw.

So why do people say they "have TMJ" then?! Everyone (or almost everyone) has a jaw!

Check out this short video to find out.

So much education and challenges to help you on your journey in my group, Fed-Up & Option-Seeking TMJ Warriors: Abundant Life Community. Check it out!

How Can I Get Rid of Anxiety

How can I get rid of anxiety?

This is a question I asked myself a LOT when I was hardcore struggling. I mean, I felt like I was powerless over the thoughts and feelings running through my mind and body, and it was very difficult. For a long time, I couldn't believe I had any control over it -- I thought I was just at the mercy of it.

But I realized later how wrong that was... how it didn't at ALL fit into my beliefs.

I believe personally that God lives within me, that I have His power and strength and love residing in my heart and mind and soul and spirit. If that's true (which if you don't believe that's true, replace it with love or the universe or something else... what fits your framework, just hear what I'm saying).

If God lives within me, I 1000% have His power to take control of thoughts and feelings within me. I'm fallible and will make mistakes being human too, but I CAN reclaim that power of God in me through the strength of the Holy Spirit -- "not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind."

Here's one way you can do that, one antidote for fear, anxiety, and worry. Be filled with courage.

For Those With a Menstrual Cycle

For Those With a Menstrual Cycle
Today I want to talk about something just for those of us with a menstrual cycle. 🤭😉

In the spirit of being eco-friendly and reducing/reusing/recycling, let's talk about eco-friendly menstrual products.
I personally use cloth pads. (These ones here or some really cute ones you can get on Etsy too! Find what fits for your body and works for you).

I know many people who use a reusable menstrual cup.
Both I think are great! Here's my top 4 reasons for the switch:

1. Eco-friendly: this was a BIG one for me. I'm all about less waste.

2. Less toxin exposure: my period used to be longer and more painful at the beginning than it needed to be because those disposable, one-time use products contain irritants and such that BOTHER our bodies and systems in different ways. Keep in mind that cheaply made cloth ones actually can too. But... Eliminate that? Less bothering the system, and for me resulted in a less painful, more regular cycle with shorter period. Who doesn't want that?! 🙌

3. Comfort: my sensitive body is all about comfort, and once I realized it was actually more comfortable because I invested in quality pads, I felt way more comfortable!

4. Cheaper: no need to go stock up at Target or wherever every month anymore! I've been using the same set for 3 years now and they still look GREAT. I do keep some disposable on hand for random overnight trips if I don't want to think ahead more and plan for cleaning the cloth ones, but that's not often for me.

***Cleaning them is easy-peasy! I just hand-wash with the best ever non-toxic plant-based laundry soap, so they smell good AND stay really nice! Win-win! 🙌 (Let me know if you need care tips, happy to share my how-to!)

Pro-tip: if you're trying to avoid toxins like I mentioned in #2, you're doing yourself a disservice by washing them in regular laundry detergent. Go look up the ingredients of that stuff... 😬 No thanks. No matter what you're using, I recommend googling a few (or all!) ingredient names just to see what they are/do. You may be surprised at what you find even if you are using a "natural" laundry soap. Ask me about what I use for the best, most cost effective laundry soap around!

Do you use cloth pads/a menstrual cup? If not, what are your concerns? I guarantee you that I had one of your concerns before I made the switch! Ask away -- no question is too weirdo for me! 😜😊

My Top 5 Current Favorite Growth Books

My Top 5 Current Favorite Growth Books
I have GROWN so much in the past year -- physically stronger and truly healthy (nope, I wasn't really that physically healthy before, though to most in our culture I would have looked it), emotionally more stable and empowered, mentally fitter and challenged, relationally in connecting with others, and more grounded in who I am and my God-given purpose.

Much of this growth has been through being challenged by mentors in relationship (a HUGE perk of our wellness team. I would have never met these amazing people who encourage and spur me on were it not for this journey over the past 3 years!), but a lot of my own growth has been having the space in life to READ again. Of course I read and was reading the Bible, but I used to read a ton during high school, both personal development books but also fiction. College left me with only time to read assigned textbooks and such, and after college I found myself super overwhelmed figuring out my career and reading got put on the back burner.

One blessing from the past pandemic season has been getting back to reading! It's been so healthy and transformative for me. So without further ado, my top 5 recommendations for personal development and growth:

1. Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf -- Mindset and emotions work. SO powerful. She talks about retraining our brains, as our brains are a muscle and SUPER adaptable just like other muscles and parts of our bodies. I gift this book to people who join my Empowering Emotions/Managing Mindset Challenge (contact me for more info!).

2. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell -- I've learned a lot about the skill and art of relating to people recently from this book. It really IS something we can get better at and learn how to do (it's not just something some people are born good at and others aren't). I'm in a Tuesday morning book club right now going through this one and LOVING it!

3. Sensing the Rhythm by Mandy Harvey (70% off on Amazon as I write this!!) -- A memoir type book following Mandy's story of losing her hearing but still going on to be a singer/songwriter, her spiritual and growth-driven perspective isn't just inspiring, but motivating. I see SO much of my own story in hers (my journey through TMJD to the other side and the unexpected blessings from pain).

4. The Superior Ningxia Wolfberry by Hugo Rodier -- I just HAD to learn more about why I am feeling so much better and my body is doing so much better now than I was a couple years ago. This little book was a goldmine. And if you'd like to start this wellness journey with me and join our natural wellness community, I'm happy to give you this one for free. Ask me for more details if you're interested.

5. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron -- This book started our (my and Gabe's) journey to understanding ourselves better, so much better, in the context of relationships with others and with God. We are SO grateful for reading this book first, but also being able to dive deeper in learning about ourselves through some amazing friends/mentors. If you're interested in learning more about yourself via the Enneagram or coaching opportunities with my friend Kristi, you can check it out here.

There you have it! What are your favorite books that have led to growth and personal development?

Check out my YouTube channel here where I'm going to be doing a video book review soon. Subscribe to stay tuned!

Why Drinking Water is So Important for TMJ/Joint Issues

Why Drinking Water is So Important for TMJ/Joint Issues
Staying hydrated is VERY important, especially as someone who used to struggle with joint issues AND is a singer for 7+ hours every day. The amount of water each person needs is going to depend on that person and how physically active they are in a given day. I get a few miles of exercise just jumping around my classroom every day! And I also do 2+ miles of walking with the dog daily. Do some experimenting with how much water works best for you. Some people may function better with more water than usual, and it may help reduce issues!, while for others it only causes the inconvenience of more frequent trips to the bathroom.
For me, my voice has to stay hydrated to perform at optimal levels. I already knew that from how much training I had as a singer during college. But did you know that the WHOLE BODY is like that? I kind of did, but not as much as once I started looking up WHY dehydration is such a problem, especially if you're experiencing discomfort.
Your body needs water to function and without sufficient water your body struggles to perform all its necessary tasks, like flushing toxins from the system and lubricating your cells. Believe it or not, there is actually some evidence that supports increasing water decreases some symptoms.
Many health experts have recommended a diet high in antioxidants (remember my red drink? If not, contact me and I'll tell you about my antioxidant hack) as well as drinking fresh water as being great ways to manage inflammation and pain. Water is recommended because it can flush toxins and other irritants out of our systems, decreasing the inflammatory response.
When there is a scarcity of water in the body, cartilage loses its sponginess. Drinking more water may not treat the underlying cause, but it can help keep your joints healthy. Proper hydration can improve the production of synovial fluid, reduce the inflammation, and maintain the shock absorbing properties of cartilage.
Throughout the day, the discs in our backs lose water and need to rehydrate. Drinking water to adequately replenish the discs with the amount water needed to work properly can reduce the likelihood of developing back issues.
It is well documented that water dehydration can lead to the development of headaches. Some observational studies indicate that water dehydration, in addition to impairing concentration and increasing irritability, can serve as a trigger for migraines and other forms of headaches. In those with a water deprivation-induced headache, ingestion of water provided relief from headache in most individuals within 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Our immune system also requires water to work at optimum levels.
As you can see, water is really important! I know some people don't like drinking plain water (which is why they drink other things that contain harmful additives in them). I actually like adding a natural electrolyte squirt (you can find here) to flavor my water and change it up. 🙂 If you do add any GRAS essential oils to your water (which I also recommend!), just make sure you use a glass or metal water bottle. I really like this one personally. And make sure your oils are therapeutic grade and the purest! We definitely would not want to introduce more toxins to your body by using oils that are not pure.


So now that you know how helpful staying hydrated is, keep at it! If you need encouragement or accountability to stay on track, I have the perfect opportunity for you; reach out to learn more about it!

Struggling with TMJ issues? I did too. (Yes, that is a past tense verb! I've been pain-free for almost 3 years now and grateful every single day for it.) There are so many things that can exacerbate it, but that also means there are so many natural options at your fingertips for addressing those issues and finding relief. One quick example? Hormones can cause issues with joints. I know more than I'd ever care to know now about TMJ and joint issues, and my goal now is just to bless as many people as I can with what I learned. If I can help others experience less pain or less years of pain than I did, this journey will have been WORTH it to me.

Why Hormones May Affect TMJ Issues And How to Support the Body's Natural Hormones

The body is super complex, with many different systems working together but also performing separate functions. Your musculoskeletal system, which includes your joints and your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), can be affected by many factors, including gut health, immune system function, mental/emotional health, inflammation in the body, and hormones.

Hormones are constantly at work in your body and can even play a role in certain illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And, conditions like this can make TMJ issues worse.

The Possible Link Between Hormones and Joint Issues

Although arthritis seems unrelated to hormones, medical research says they may be very related, especially when it comes to RA. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system begins attacking healthy cells instead of foreign invaders. And for women, the experiences of RA are closely correlated with hormonal changes that occur during menstrual cycles, perimenopause, and menopause. Although there is still much more to learn about these things, some studies have found:

The hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to protect against some issues when they are at their highest levels.
Women report less discomfort during the latter part of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen and progesterone levels are at their peak. (So if we can support the body in balancing/maintaining levels, this could be a way to support the body in optimal function.)

Pregnant women are far less likely to develop issues or experience flare-ups. Estrogen and progesterone levels soar during pregnancy.

Onset seems to peak for women between the ages of 45 and 49. This is commonly a period of hormonal decline before menopause begins, known as perimenopause.

Women are two to four times more likely to develop joint issues than men, so it’s possible that the hormone fluctuations trigger the onset of the condition in some people, and the hormonal changes that occur throughout life can either protect against symptoms or make them worse. Other factors, such as genetics, environment, diet, smoking, and alcohol use may also increase a person’s risk of having discomfort, but the hormonal link perhaps may explain why issues appear to come and go at certain times for women.

What This Means for TMJD

Knowing that women’s hormones can affect joints in general, we can assume that for some women, hormones may also affect their temporomandibular joint (TMD). This is because the TMJ is a joint like other joints in the body, so the same things can affect it as well. For women who experience discomfort, it can help them understand why their symptoms may get worse at specific times of the month or certain times in their lives.

If you’re having joint issues, it may be important to see your doctor to get testing, but there are also many things you can do to support your body on your own. I share about
my own experience with TMJ issues and addressing them naturally so that people can see that there are options, and naturopaths may be also able to assist in this.

There IS hope for those who struggle with these things -- you CAN feel empowered to support hormones naturally from home; if you'd like support along the way, I am more than happy to walk alongside you and be a cheerleader on your journey. I would have wished that for myself a few years ago, so I'd be honored to be that for you. This does not need to be fearful or lonely. There's community and hope and abundance for you, dear friend.

How I Personally Dealt With TMJD Naturally

How I Personally Dealt With TMJD Naturally

Jaw issues can be a tricky thing... Many people (specialists included) don't know exactly what causes it, and for different people there can be different root issues or things that exacerbate it.

I personally believe that the body is inter-connected. We were made to be holistic beings and to care for our body, mind, spirit, and heart as whole beings!

So with that in mind, it took much trial and error for me, but with some changes to lifestyle and positive natural additions, I'm finally in a place of being physically well, emotionally well, relationally well, and spiritually well. There's always room for more growth, but I feel better than I have ever being on this wellness journey of discovery and progress.

5 Things That Have Impacted My TMJ For the Better

1. We cut out all sugar & caffeine, most dairy (esp. husband for his IBS), and most processed foods. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. And einkorn for grain mostly. Part of our diet change also included some supplements that support joint health and overall wellness including energywhich has even helped my hair and nails grow longer and thicker and be less brittle. Who knew? More positives, I guess when you're going for naturally supporting the body. 

2. We also see a specialized chiropractor, and utilize something that helps us stay in alignment longer. I wear a custom splint on top at night so I slide instead of clench, though I personally think that mostly just protects my teeth than stops clenching.

3. Working on mindset and run-away emotions, as well as balancing hormones. I used to be a really anxious person, worrying about every little thing and blowing smaller worries out of proportion. If I went to a dr for that, maybe I would have been diagnosed, maybe not. But I have consciously worked REALLY hard to help myself focus on affirmations (truths rather than lies) to help me when I feel like it's harder than it should be.

4. Supplement where the body is deficient. This one may seem obvious, but I don't think it is! This includes joints, gut health, and ear/detoxing issues such as tinnitus. We live in a world that is broken, and with bodies that don't always do as they're supposed to -- but it wasn't meant to be this way! By providing our bodies high quality, bioavailable options to support where our bodies are lacking, we can live full lives more as we were created to. I've been able to do that very well, but the body takes TIME to heal. (This process can take months of consistency, so be patient. It didn't get "messed up" in a day, so it won't get "fixed" in a day either.)

5. Get good sleep. Sleep is foundational for so much of our health and wellness.

Curious about the specific things that have worked for me in each of these categories? Check out some of the links above, for starters, or check out the TMJ Strong course. I don't believe there's a one-size-fits-all for health & wellness, but I'm happy to be someone you can bounce ideas off of while on this natural wellness journey, or a listening ear to see what I can do to help you thrive rather than barely survive. I wish I'd had someone like that when I first started this journey. Happy to be that for you if you need it! I pray wellness and relief and abundance for you, friend. Be Blessed.

How I Chose My Chiropractor as an HSP With TMJD

How I Chose My Chiropractor as an HSP With TMJD
There are SO many chiropractors in the world... SO MANY.

How to choose?!

As a highly sensitive person with TMJD, I really had to take a good, hard look at what I needed from a chiropractor and what my goals were before being able to find someone that would fit my needs and help me achieve my goals.

My goals at the time were: more better sleep, less TMJD discomfort and more range of motion, less anxious thoughts and emotional swings, and stability in health and wellness. And I am reaching all of those goals through the choice I made -- yay!

1) What is their philosophy of wellness and health? Are they going to keep you coming back because they want to keep you, or have you come back at certain check-points or as needed? Do they also offer different nutritional supplements or support? Is that something you want as part of what they offer?

2) What is their actual method(s) of practice? My chiro is a part of NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractors Association) and practice a specific technique that is gentle, non-manipulative to the body, and focuses on specifically the atlas (V1) with the focal idea that most issues stem from there. If the main nerve of our spine is being pinched due to misalignment, many other issues (like TMJD, IBS, aches, etc) result. But each person is different, so the issues can be different. Once that is in alignment, the rest of the body can heal itself in its time usually. This was SO important to me because I'm really sensitive, so "twisting, cracking, and popping" my body was just not gonna happen. I'd been to one of those chiros as a kid and HATED the experience. I'd literally feel like crying in fear/dread.... yep, not happening. Very grateful to find NUCCA!

3) Do they listen and educate? Or do they just adjust and move on without taking time to care? Example: my husband has a rib that once in a while comes out of place and rotates. After adjusting his atlas, our chiro will sometimes gently adjust his wonky rib if needed, but only if it's not doing it's job. He normally doesn't do those things, but a rib out of wack isn't always going to find its way back to staying in alignment without a gentle nudge (literally, haha).

4) Do they adjust automatically if you come in, or just when you need it? Since my chiro is a NUCCA doc, he only adjusts me if I'm actually out of alignment. He has specific ways to tell if my body is in alignment or not, and he does not adjust me if my body does not need it. This allows a more natural body healing process to stay in place rather than outside forces (literally) interrupting that process. My NUCCA doc also charges half as much if he doesn't need to adjust, which is nice! Saving money but still checking on my alignment if I think I might be out.

Interested in NUCCA? They have a website where you can look up a NUCCA doc to find one near you. Their website is found here.

I'm no expert and no doctor, but this has rocked my world, and I hope can help you too, friends. TMJD can be addressed naturally.

I also have a little secret, a "chiropractic assistant" that helps me stay in alignment longer because it supports my body's skeletal and muscular systems in doing their job properly. Learn more about that here!

Why TMJD Can Feel So Lonely... But Doesn't Have to Be

Why TMJD Can Feel So Lonely... But Doesn't Have to Be
Having TMJD (or temporomandibular joint dysfunction/disorder) can be really lonely... 

I know.

I dealt with it for over 5 years. Each day, I would go to class (during college). I would sing for 20 minutes, only to be in intense neck/shoulder, jaw discomfort for the whole rest of the day. On those precious weekend days when I chose not to do any singing for my studies (I was a vocal music major), I relished each hour of less issues (though still using an ice pack on my face to fall asleep), dreading the coming of Monday when my week of tension and aching and pain would return. I sometimes cried just thinking about it. (And at the time, I hated crying... I still don't enjoy it, but now, I've learned it's okay and good to cry.)

I even tried little tiny magnets taped to my face to bring some relief on those worst days. And they helped... a tiny bit. It was worth a try anyway.

Honestly, it was awful.

Why? Not just because of the hurt...

But because I questioned the career I was so passionately pursuing, the career I felt called to with every fiber of my being, the career where I could share the joy of making music with others.

Not just because of the hurt...

But because no one else understood. I was deeply lonely.

Most people didn't even know I was hurting at all! It's not visible... it's not even a disability or something for which you can get accommodations. I felt alone in this.

My closest friends and I named my jaw "Doris," so we could blame the cranky day on Doris. So we could say, 'Doris doesn't like the rainy weather,' or 'Doris went on a roller coaster today...' And I could share a sliver of my experience with those few close friends - without feeling like a big whiner and complainer, because that is just not who I am!

TMJD is not well understood even by most doctors, dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons. Again, I felt alone in seeking help, because they tried to give me shallow bandaids rather than digging to the root of the issues.

How can this be in 2020?

Well, because many different things can cause it or aggravate it or bring it to the surface. Root issues look different for many different people.

So now I sit and watch the conversations in the online support groups happen... how so many people feel jaded and lost and lonely and frustrated and having horrible days, spending thousands of dollars on treatments professionals claim will work, because it is such an evasive issue.

TMJD is much like a snowflake -- a bit different for everyone, and no two manifestations of it look identical.


But what I've come to realize as I sit here 4 years later, in my place of privilege regarding what almost feels like a distant nightmare now, from the other side...

Is that people really just need joy. They need light. They need HOPE! They need to know there IS light at the end of the tunnel, that hurting does not have to be the end of the story. They need to know that freedom is possible.

If you, friend, are dealing with this beast, please know you're not alone. If you have a family member fighting this daily battle, they are not alone. You need to know that there ARE other options, there ARE natural, safe, non-invasive options. Will they be guaranteed to work? No. Is it a quick fix? In my experience, no.

Whether you have insurmountable amounts of hurt or just some tightness and a little discomfort...

I want you to feel seen and heard and known. I don't want you to feel alone.

What I do know, is that this journey to wellness, to physical and mental and emotional wellness and change of mindset is WORTH it. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I'd feel better today than I did when I was 17, I'd have laughed at you! Really?!


There is hope.

If you need a listening ear... if you need to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.... if you need to hear of other options because you feel jaded and alone and frustrated...

I am here. ❤️ You are not alone.

I cherish the opportunity to be that listening ear and light for those around me. I'd love to be that for you, too, really. Truly! You are welcome here. I've also shared more of my TMJD journey here if that would bless you. That's my goal -- love and blessing!
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