What Happens in the Hamam, Stays in the Hamam.

*again I sincerely apologize for a lack of posting.  I’ve snatched my husbands computer for a bit so I can type up something…it may not be the best writing, but that’s because I have to finish before he gets back!!

True to my blog name, I finally was able to “do as the turks do” in the truest sense…

I visited a hamam!

I was only somewhat sure of what to expect (thanks to movies), and I was a little anxious to see how it would go.  Especially since I am a little weird about people touching me (I loathe manicures/pedicures!).  Well, to make a long story short- I loved it!

Lets go through the play by play.


Upon arrival at this super fancy hamam (newly built, more like a typical spa from the outside), the whole building was divided in half. One side said “women” and the other side said “men”.  Right out of the gate, I was pleased.  Guys aren’t even allowed in the female reception!

At this hamam, we paid for all of our treatments upfront.  Since there was a package deal, I went for the two massage and entrance packet.  All in all, it added up to 99TL (around 30$ that day). They gave us an electric bracelet to open our lockers electronically, and then rubber wrist bands that corresponded to the treatments we purchased.  I went for a coffee massage (I have very dry skin) and the kopuk/kese massage.

Kese is a special mitt used for exfoliating dead skin.  This beats anything else I’ve ever used in my entire life.


Kopuk (with dots on the o and u) means foam, so basically they used soap suds.



If you know nothing about hamams, let me give you a super fast explanation.

They hail from the Ottoman Empire.  They were a form of public baths when indoor plumbing wasn’t a thing.  Typically marble, they are completely closed and very hot, with fountains all around for pouring water to clean yourself.  Sometimes (normally, now) there would be workers there to help clean you (wash your back etc).  They have a long history in the Ottoman Empire, including lore such as men smashing their hands on the marble to increase their fist size and strength for battles.  Maybe longer than the history are the proclaimed benefits of the hamam!

One thing crucial to the hamam experience is the pestemal (peshtemal), a thin towel used to cover yourself in the hamam. Usually you wear a swim suit these days, but back in the day it wasn’t so!


I don’t want to say all, since this is my first hamam experience, but most (if not all, based on movies etc) hamams have the same layout. A raised platform in the middle, with sinks and fountains on the outer edge, along with a bench.  Here’s a general idea.


The one we went to had a different color scheme (white, grey, and blue), but generally it was the same.

Along with the hamam room, most places have the typical sauna, steam room, etc.

So we set ourselves around a fountain and threw water on ourselves (and cold water on each other!) until it was time for the kese.

Massage and spa treatments

So removing half of my swimsuit wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be, since everyone else seemed pretty cool with it! We were taken to another room just off the hamam (no door) where the platforms were table sized, and situated beside a sink.  This is where the magic happened!

The workers (all old-ish ladies, maybe in their 50s?) got to scrubbing! They rolled you around like it wasn’t even a big deal. Starting from your back, down your legs, to your feet, then they turned you on your side and did the same, onto your front, on your remaining side, and scrubbed all the way down to your fingers and toes. I felt like a rotisserie chicken! But a clean chicken.  You thought you were exfoliating back home- oh no! I don’t want to describe how much they managed to scrub away, but I think I could form a small child from what remained behind after the kese.

The kese was followed by a coffee massage, which sounds exactly how it was.  Coffee grinds steeped in hot water were rubbed all over, ALL over, over the course of 20 minutes or so.  They were tugging on my arms and hands and feet, I thought I would pop apart!  They were not gentle. But in a good way! (picture is for an idea, obviously not me or the place I went lol)


After the coffee massage came the soap suds massage.  This one was much more gentle, in my opinion.  I was amazed at how they used a large, very thin towel to whip up huge soap suds and squeeze them onto you.  This took another 20 minutes.

After all was said and done, I was sent back to the hamam room to wash myself with my own soap and shampoo.

The aftermath

Ya’ll, my skin was beet red!  I looked like a tomato!  But after sleeping, I woke up and my skin was refreshed and bright, even my face (thanks to the coffee treatment)!  Unfortunately, I ended up having a worse head cold than I started with (I guess sitting in steam for hours then going into slightly brisk weather will do that to you?)…but it was worth it!

Definitely will go again!! Maybe now I will have the strength to finish the school year?

Sihhatlar olsun!

*Disclaimer: Not all hamams are created equal. Be sure to do your homework about the services offered, the hygiene of the facilities, and what you need to bring vs what they provide for you!



TMJ athrocentesis 2 week update

Today was my two week follow up after having a TMJ lavage/ athrocentesis.  While I probably should have been describing my progress as it happened,  I was constantly upset by the information I gleened from the experience of others with this procedure/ disease and didn’t have the energy or strength to bother with much of anything- let alone my blog. However, I wan’t to share my own experience thusfar with my temporomandibular joint disorder and put another perspective out there for people to read.  All of this down-and-out business was NOT helping my recovery.  Personally, I believe wellness includes your own mental perspective of your condition as well.

Please note that I am a graduate student who has been seeing the doctors at the ajoining dental school, so the experience and education of these doctors may be different from others.  Actually, I was encouraged by this difference since I know that these doctors are still being educated.

Pre-surgery: Pain level was approximately 6-8 out of 10 depending on the day, stabbing pain in my left TMJ and radiating pain in my teeth and face.  Opening was 1 “finger” without pain, 2 “fingers” with stabbing pain. Couldn’t even chew eggs, very painful.  Even without talking/ moving I was in pain.

Day of operation:

On the day I had my athrocentesis I was very nervous!  My biggest concern, in all honesty, is that it wouldn’t help me.  I asked the doctor as they prepped me what the success rate was for this procedure.  The doctor told me that, in her experience, 80-85% of the patience she had seen saw improvement in their condition, while the rest saw no improvement. In her experience, she had not seen anyone get worse.  This made me feel a bit better and soon the “light anesthetic” knocked me out cold.

I was perscribed hydrocodone+acetomenaphine and ibuprofin for the pain and inflammation.  Since naproxen had given me a painful case of acid reflux I was told to take ibuprofin only as I could handle it (which was 200mg every 4hrs, come to find out.).  I iced the area non-stop for the first 8hrs after the procedure, as instructed.  The pain was manageable under medication, but I had to remain very straight, I couldn’t lay down without a lot of discomfort.  Needless to say, I didn’t get sleep that night.  (By the way,  I have completely recovered from the acid reflux caused by naproxen. It took a few weeks, but I can again eat high acid food! YAY!)

On the day of operation on, even now and for months more, I have been conducting “jaw exercises” that include opening as far as I can and wiggling my jaw side to side.  This should prevent scarring of the TMJ that could worsen my condition.

Could only eat broth

Days 1-4:

On the first four days I experienced a squishy-feeling, squeeky/crunchy-sounding sensation in my left TMJ (where the surgery occurred).  This was worse than the pain, since I am sensative to sounds and it was driving me crazy.  This was due to residual fluid after the flushing and is considered normal.  Each day the sound/sensation abated more and more and by day 4 it was pretty much gone, with some exception to occasional occurences (which stopped me in my tracks- like nails on a chalk board! but didnt hurt).  The pain was still there, but managable with ibuprofin only after two days.  I feel as though the right side of my face hurt more than my left, but this could be because I was babying the left side and putting all the pressure on the right.  NO clicking or popping at this point.
The biggest problem at this point was that I couldn’t close my mouth completely- meeting my molars together.  I felt as though a jelly bean was in my TMJ, preventing full closer and producing that obnoxious noise when I tried.  The pain was a dull ache. I was sleeping normally and fitfully, althought it took some adjusting to find a place that my jaw didnt align poorly.

My opening was a tight “2 fingers”, my range of motion for jutting my jaw past my upper teeth was minimal (couldn’t pass my upper teeth, a feeling a stretching) and pushing my jaw to the right was also limited (same sensation).

Could only eat broth and yogurt, but I had no noticeable swelling at the procedure sight and very very slight bruising.

Days 5-7:

Finally, on day five my mouth could fully close, although I felt some pressure.  Also at this point I noticed I developed a very obvious lisp.  At this point the pain was minimal, but I was still bound to ibuprofin , but now only one or two pills a day.  My opening was still a tight 2 fingers and my range of motion was limited as described before.  Now I could chew angel hair pasta, still very limited to soft foods.  Kept up my exercises, still sleeping well

At this point I was getting pretty upset. I had thought that this procedure, being minimally invasive, would heal quickly.  No, no it doesn’t heal quickly.  The follow up is scheduled for two weeks for a reason.

Days 8-10:

Everything was pretty much the same, but the pain kept becoming less and less. Same range of motion, occasional use of acetomenophin and ibuprofin as needed.  I had a spasm in the right side of my face on day 10, but I took muscle relaxors that night and everything was ok. Now I was carefully chewing well cooked vegetables like cauliflower.  If it took more than two “chews” it was a no go. Lisp slightly improved.  Moving jaw to the left sometimes creates a popping in my right TMJ, but opening is fine.  Occasionally I would feel a “stop” when chewing or talking, but I think I was trying to move my jaw past its range of motion without realizing.  This became less frequent throughout the days 8-10

Days 11-13

On these days I stopped taking medicine all together, I had no need.  I was able to chew soft foods such as bulgur, hot dogs, meat products, regular noodles, etc, and even the occasional hand-ful of peanuts.  Basically, if I could get it in my mouth I could chew it, but I would get tired.  Not pain, mind you, just a feeling of tiredness in my jaw.  Lisping only on certain words.  Range of motion was still limited but now I can align my bottom and top teeth, barely passing the top with some pulling sensation.  Pulling my jaw to the right a little bit more, but still feeling a pulling sensation.  Could open my mouth “2 fingers” comfortably, but this is not my pre-TMJ opening still. Still occasional right TMJ popping.

Today (2 week check up):

Today it was made official that my opening is the same as before my athrocentesis, but it is PAIN FREE and I think that’s a win.  Lisp is still improving and expected to further improve as my range of motion improves.  While I cannot jump into chewing gummy bears I have been advised that, if it doesnt hurt, chew it.  So I plan on trying some bread soon (soft bread is fine, but chewy crusts have been avoided up to now).  When I bit down on the tongue depressor to check for pain I had none, but this started my right TMJ popping when I opened my mouth.  I rubbed it, rested it for ten minutes, and the popping stopped.  I was advised to get a dental splint, but I don’t have $400.  The doctor told me, conspiratorially, that if I’m not having pain that it isn’t necessary, that I can try over-the-counter guards and if they don’t hurt me then it should be ok.  The problem is that, if the guards cause a misalignment, it can make my condition worse.  Since my occlusion and bite are perfect due to previous orthodontic work, the purpose of a splint would be to prevent grinding and relieve pressure from grinding that I may be doing (which I know I do on occasion).

In a disheartened state I shared with my doctor the horror stories I heard about TMD sufferers and how many people said they spent years with pain and problems.  I asked sincerely if I would be doomed to a life of limitations.  The doctor smiled and told me that, for many people, TMJ can resolve itself as long as you aren’t aggravating it, and hopefully I will continue to see improvements until I am back to 100%.  I have another follow up in 3 months to check my progress and be sure I am not worsening the issue.

So, to all those considering an athrocentesis:

1.  It helped me.  While my range of motion isn’t back up to where it used to be (approx. 3 fingers I’m thinking) I can eat WITHOUT PAIN  and for me that is the most important thing.

2.  Don’t be disheartened, with patience you can improve.  Honestly, after the first week I was in a very dark and upsetting place about my condition, and I think that hindered my progress more than my actual physical ailments. You will find more people complaining about a problem than praising their recovery, so don’t be overwhelmed by all the negative reviews you may find.

3.  It WILL take the full 2 weeks to feel better.  The first few days will suck, you will definitely need to confine yourself to your home.  Talking will be hard for the first full week, but after day 3-4 you can get back to work if it is not a very physically exhaustive job (office work-yes, construction- no)

I’ll keep ya’ll posted as I continue to progress! Inshallah I will be back to normal!