Skip to content

Something to Chew On

Human Skull

July 13, 2011

On the health history section of my intake form, clients often check the box for TMJD or tempo-mandibular joint disfunction, but seem surprised when I ask them about it. For the layman the tempo-mandibular joints are the joints that open and close our jaws. TMJ pain and disfunction symptoms can include jaw pain, clicking, trouble chewing, headaches, an uneven bite, and even tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Symptoms vary from the mildly irritating to debilitating ringing, pain, and even chronic dizziness. Clients rarely attempt to address their mild jaw discomfort or alternately believe nothing can be done. If left untreated, the symptoms don’t tend to improve on their own and can eventually impact quality of life.

Seeing a massage therapist can be one of the most effective, least invasive, inexpensive ways to treat TMJ Disfunction. Many clients I see can get results in just one session. Obviously, if the discomfort has been chronic for a long time, the recovery can be slower.

An assesment of jaw movement followed by Myofascial Release to the temporalis and masseter muscles is often how I begin treatment with a client with TMJD. This work can be intense and often brings up memories or emotion. I always work within the client’s comfort level, and while you may feel some discomfort, you should not feel pain.

Bodywork can trigger an emotional release. Sometimes clients cry, shake or giggle uncontrollably on the table. While this can be surprising or embarrassing for the client, any massage therapist will tell you that it is a normal reaction and a sign of release. Our bodies hold past trauma and events and when we remind it of a past injury or event, the emotions can come flooding out. Sometimes a client remembers a forgotten accident, but it is just as common for them to say “I have no idea why I’m crying.” I mention this phenomenon in the post about TBJD because the jaws seem to be a hot spot for holding tension. An emotional release can happen anywhere in the body, but another common place is in our hips.

While there is a lot I can do to help a client with TMJD, there are some things you can do at home to accelerate the treatment. First and foremost, no more chewing gum! Gum should be avoided for many reasons (maybe a good subject for another post), but if you have any jaw discomfort or clicking, you should NEVER chew gum. If you grind your teeth at night, you can see your dentist for a mouth guard. There are also some great stretches I can give you to release those muscles at home.

I have had great results treating clients with jaw disfunction using both Myofascial Release and CranioSacral techniques. You don’t have to live with TMJ pain and disfunction symptoms no matter how mild.