By Barbara Beeck, Remedial Soft Tissue Therapist
First, let’s explain what TMJ is.
It stands for Temporomandibular Joint – the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull.
You may have a TMJ dysfunction if you complain about pain in the jaw, around the ear, Tinnitus, pain radiating to the temporal area, pain in the teeth, inability to open your mouth widely, grinding teeth (bruxism), and a noisy or clicking jaw. There is a strong connection between tension headaches and jaw muscle tension. No doubt in most cases there are other connectingmuscles in the neck and shoulders and upper back that need attention.
Thorough treatment for the above conditions takes into account the close relationship between the neck and jaw in particular. The suboccipitals under the back of the skull are often particularly tense. Over time, stress, and lots of forward head posture using screens and gadgets or just inattention to correct posture leads to the fascia here and in the rest of the neck losing elasticity. It results in reduced range of motion in the neck which in turn can have a tethering effect on the jaw. If you find it increasingly difficult to turn your head while reversing the car, your soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments and all connectivetissue) definitely would benefit from being released out with soft tissue therapy.
What to do?
I will list some “self help” strategies at the end of this article, but here’s how soft tissue remedial therapy can help.
Over the last twenty years, I have studied many techniques. My approach to treating TMJ dysfunction is a mix and match of all of them, suiting each individual case. Have you had a whiplash injury? Do you have a partial denture? Do you have neck issues from your job? Do you grind your teeth? Are you working constantly with a computer? Have you had a lot of dental work lately?
Some techniques involved are – cranio sacral balancing, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, deep tissue work, Bowen therapy and orthobionomy. If needed (and often it is) work is done intra-orally (insidethe mouth with a gloved finger).
Self Help tips
Self help 1. Avoid extreme positions for your jaw and neck e.g. sleep on your side, not on your front with your head turned to the side. Don’t cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder. Check your work station and don’t have your head turned in one direction for extended periods.
Self help 2. Have a neutral facial rest position, relaxed with teeth slightly apart.
Self help 3. Massage the Masseter. The masseter muscle is on the underside of the cheekbones – just do gentle circular massage motions there.
Self Help 4. Massage The Temporalis – on the sides of the brows – where you often instinctively circle to relieve headache.
I wish you well with implementing these self help techniques. There are further techniques, requiring accurate demonstrations, we can investigate further if you suffer from this condition and would like to make an appointment.