TMJ can really limit the amount of joy in eating. Pain, clicking, a feeling of being mis-aligned, and tightness are common symptoms. Going to the dentist is difficult, and may cause an increase in pain because of having the jaw open for cleaning or other work.
People are often surprised at how tender their face and jaw are when massaged. This tenderness is an indication that there are trigger points that need massage. Many of the trigger points that help with better jaw function are easily accessed around the cheeks and outer jaw. Also part of the trigger point pattern are areas in the neck and inside the mouth.
Trigger points are tiny points of excruciating pain in the muscle tissue. They are there because of a lack of oxygen in the tissue. One of the tricky things about trigger points is that they 'refer' pain to areas away from where the actual trigger point is. For instance, trigger points in the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) in the neck can contribute to clenching and grinding the teeth, which contributes to TMJ.
Massage flushes the muscle tissue with oxygen-rich blood, and acts to relieve the pain of the trigger point. With frequent, light massage, the trigger point can actually be cleared. Once a person is familiar with where they are, they can self-massage those points at home, which is very helpful.
Another approach to TMJ is to see it as part of the whole body. The Structural Integration (SI) 10-series is designed to align the body in gravity. In other words, it is a series of 10 sessions that address tightness and misalignment in the whole body, so a person can stand, sit, and walk with more ease in everyday life.
Though the SI goal is to create better alignment, not to 'chase the pain' of symptoms, the whole body alignment often clears chronic pain. By relieving strain in the connective tissue, the whole body has more ease in movement, allowing smooth movements of joints, including TMJ.
I personally had TMJ. Three years of orthodontics, dental surgeries, along with neck, spine, and head injuries from horse-riding accidents set me up to have tight, clicking jaws that were very uncomfortable. I found some relief from working trigger points, and was thrilled to learn how to work on them myself.
Once I received the SI 10-series, my jaw really changed. The alignment in my whole body was affecting the tightness in my jaw. While receiving the 10-series, I often felt connections between distant parts of my body and the pain in my jaw. For instance, I felt a sensation of relief coming into my jaw while my forearms were being worked on during the 10-series.
If you are wanting to address the acute pain and discomfort of TMJ, trigger point work is a place to look. If you are wanting to address whole body balance and alignment, and allow your body to find new ease in all movements, including TMJ, then the Structural Integration 10-series is a great choice for you.
About the author: Stephanie Bish owns 'Blissful Body by Stephanie' in Ely, MN; also serving Babbitt, Virginia, Tower, and the Arrowhead Region. As a Massage Therapist, Structural Integrator, and Reiki Master Teacher, she enjoys guiding people on their path to well-being.
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