by Michael Flores
Most of the people I have treated who have Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain typically have neck, shoulder, and headache pain along with their jaw pain; this is no coincidence. Everything in this region is essentially connected. I like to make the analogy that if you are wearing a turtle neck sweater and you bunched up the sweater at your shoulder, it’s going to pull and cause tension at your neck, opposite shoulder, back, as well as many other areas. This is exactly how your muscles and soft tissue work around your TMJ. If there is tension at your jaw, you are bound to have tension at your neck, shoulder, and/or back.
When dealing with TMJ disorders, it is important to determine the root source of the problem. If you are having a recent onset of jaw pain in addition to chest pain, trouble breathing, severe headache, slurred speech, or sudden onset of weakness, please seek out medical attention right away as it may be related to a heart attack or stroke. Otherwise, we can help treat TMJ disorders that develop from muscle tension, trigger points, problems with the joint or disc in your jaw (may need referred to a specialist), issues with posture and symmetry, traumatic or repetitive use injury, muscle guarding, or central sensitization (an over excitability of your pain receptors).
Some of the common causes, once identified, can be helped or fixed. For instance, if you have oral parafunctions (grinding, bruxing, clenching, gritting, chew gum, bite your nails), you can address some of these issues through behavioral changes or by using a night guard (over the counter or custom made).
What we see most often in our clinic are problems with the muscles (trigger points and guarding), posture, and symmetry of the joint. One simple technique that you could try to relieve some of your symptoms would be to work the trigger points. To do this, place your fingertips on the side of your face (about and inch forward in front of your ear). Gently clench your teeth. You should feel your masseter muscle (one of your largest chewing muscles) bulge into your fingertips. This is the muscle you want to massage. I would like for you to look for the worst or most sore spot, then gently massage it in a crisscross pattern. After you have done this, gently hold the pressure there. As the pain eases up, you can gradually press a little deeper. Hold this for 30 sec and up to 5 minutes. Make sure that your pain level while doing this remains at about a 3/10 or less.
After finishing this, try a gentle range of motion activity: Open and close your jaw 10 times, move your jaw side to side 10 times, then move your jaw forward and back 10 times. I love to finish a massage with active movements (like these jaw movements) because a massage by itself feels great, but your muscles don’t realize that they have a new flexibility until you train them into this new flexibility.
I hope this article helped. Please feel free to call or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if have questions. I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at 719-565-6678
Be sure to RSVP to Michael Coffee’s Free TMD/TMJ Workshop on 3/22/2019 from 6-7 pm!