I’ve begun to study and practice the MELT Method after injuring my low back last fall. The pain led to less activity, which seems to have turned on my pain body, which wasn’t an issue before the injury.
I was advised by my physical therapist to limit my yoga to a home practice. Even that sometimes felt like too much. Like only restorative yoga would be helpful.
I think I tore some connective tissue fibers in that large diamond-shaped piece of connective tissue called the thoracolumbar aponeurosis.
So a friend recommended that I try the MELT Method. It’s been around for probably a decade.
What makes MELT attractive at this time is that it works with the body’s connective tissue. Treating the neurofascial system of the body affects sensory nerve endings, which transmit pain signals.
Keeping the fascia fluid is key. Repetitive motion dehydrates the fascia. How much to you sit? Or do you stand on your feet for hours?
Anyway, I’ve been doing it for a week, and I notice a difference. For more, check out the MELT Method here.
In order to stay more evenly hydrated throughout the day, I’m ordering this water bottle with 2 hour increments marked on it that I’ll need to refill once. It’s glass with a non-BPA protective sleeve and two caps.
(I have an affiliate account with Amazon and will make a few cents if you purchase through the link.)
If you were building a tower, and one of the floors wasn’t level, it would affect the floors above it — unless you somehow compensated.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is kind of like that, only it’s because it settled unevenly on the ground beneath it. As they built it over the years, it would sink, stabilize, sink more…
The structure of the body is like that too — even when standing on level solid ground.
Because the jaw is near the top of the skeleton, imbalances below can affect the alignment and functionality of the temporomandibular joints (TMJs).
The primary cause of most jaw pain is asymmetrical hypertonicity. Thanks, TMJ Mastery teacher John Corry! That means that some of the muscles that affect the jaw are tighter than others.
I include a basic structural evaluation in my free TMJ consultations. It’s pretty cursory. I’m just looking for asymmetries. Here’s how I do it.
The patient stands with their shoes off.
I feel the space under theIr arches and check whether their feet (or one foot) are pronating or supinating.
Checking the points on the tops of the hips to see if they’re level comes next.
I ask about scoliosis if it’s not already apparent. Same with pelvic floor issues.
Then I check their shoulders to see if they’re level.
I look at the patient from each side to see if they have a pelvic tilt toward the front or the back and view their spinal curves.
When they are lying on my massage table, I can check for a leg length discrepancy with their legs flat, and then with feet flat/knees bent. I can also see whether their feet point up symmetrically.
I place the pads of my fingers over their TMJs right in front of their ears and ask them to open and close repeatedly.
Usually one side moves first.
Often one side feels closer to the ear than the other.
Sometimes one side sticks out more than the other.
Try it yourself. What do you notice?
None of this is super precise. I’m just getting a basic read on asymmetries in the structure of the patient that may affect the jaw.
Have you noticed that you have a dominant side? A side that feels stronger than the other?
Have you ever had a foot, ankle, leg, or hip injury? Can you still tell the difference between the injured side and the uninjured one?
Does your physical activity work your body evenly, left and right sides, front and back, upper, lower?
Do you have a full range of movement in your joints?
How’s your posture?
How about your sleep posture?
It’s not my main business to start correcting these asymmetries (except in the upper body/jaw when I can). Becoming more symmetrical can take a while, years in some cases, so I consider it a long-term project for people with jaw pain to find relief, as well as more ease and functionality in their bodies.
Symmetry is also an ideal, like perfection. Most of us are doing the best we can. There’s probably always going to be some asymmetry in the body, but we can definitely address the most dysfunctional areas.
The functional movement screen is a set of 7 movements you do with a trainer, who scores you and can prescribe workouts that strengthen your weaknesses. FMS was developed to identify athletes who were prone to injury before they got injured. It can work for ordinary people too.
Practices of non-linear movement can help if done regularly over a long period. These movements work both sides of the body. They increase flexibility and balance and fluidity. And they are fun! Examples:
yoga, especially if it’s alignment-oriented like Iyengar and Anusara
dance, especially free-form dancing like ecstatic dance
The type of bodywork that addresses asymmetries is called structural bodywork. There are two main schools of training: Rolfing Structural Integration and Anatomy Trains Structural Integration. Neuromuscular therapy also assesses posture and gait pattern and can address imbalances.
There are a lot of tools that you can use on yourself to improve posture and sleep posture, release muscle tension, help remove strain from the neck and the sacrum. Some of them are included in this post on self-care tools.
A neurology practice noted that of its patients who had restless legs syndrome (RLS), 60% also had bruxism (grinding teeth during sleep). They found that 52% had RLS, bruxism, and migraines.
Do you relate?
The lead neurologist for this study speculated there is a gene that links these conditions.
It gets more interesting. Both restless legs syndrome and bruxism are involuntary movements occurring during sleep. Is bruxism “restless jaw syndrome?”
I’m always happy to see more research about TMJ-related issues, especially because there are so many factors that play a role in jaw dysfunction and pain.
More about bruxism.
Bruxism includes clenching and grinding the teeth. Some distinguish these as “waking bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”.
They may have different causes, in my opinion.
Sleep bruxism, in contrast to daytime clenching, is hard to treat because it occurs when unaware of your behavior and unable to change it.
Waking bruxism is a habit that can change with awareness and practice. I’ve helped many clenchers learn how to relax their mouth position.
Some things I’ve noted about bruxism in my manual therapy practice:
Many people don’t know they grind during sleep until a dentist tells them they have damaged teeth.
Bruxism often requires expensive dental work: mouthguards or splints to prevent further damage, and crowns to fortify cracked or broken teeth.
Sometimes the noise of grinding during sleep is loud enough to wake up family members, and that’s how people learn they have sleep bruxism.
People who grind at night often wake up with jaw, face, or neck pain, earaches, and/or headaches.
Over time, bruxism can damage the temporomandibular joints, possibly requiring surgery.
Dentists and jaw issues.
Many people expect dentists to be experts on jaw issues, yet their domain is treating the teeth and gums.
Learning about TMJ disorders is not required in dental school.
General practice dentists can prevent further tooth damage with appliances like mouthguards and splints. They can repair existing tooth damage.
Some dentists may try to adjust the positioning of the TMJs, and a few dentists also address airway issues (like sleep apnea, which also may accompany sleep bruxism) in their work.
Dentists do not address stress or tension in the jaw muscles, which contribute so much to jaw pain.
Some dentists and hygienists in the Austin area refer people with jaw pain or issues opening wide to me. (New alternative to manual therapy during the COVID pandemic: my upcoming online course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain.)
Solutions to try.
If you grind your teeth during sleep, it is possible to stop by using hypnotherapy and EFT.
I don’t know if it works for everyone, but it’s soothing — I always fall asleep before it ends. Less stress is always desirable.
As mentioned above, dopamine agonists are prescribed for low dopamine levels.
Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward — when you anticipate a pleasurable activity such as eating a delicious meal, spending time with someone you love, or receiving a big check.
It’s sometimes called “the happy hormone” because it affects your enthusiasm, motivation, and focus.
If you suffer from bruxism, before going the pharmaceutical route with dopamine agonist drugs, you may want to consider nutrition — consuming foods or taking supplements that raise your dopamine levels.
In particular the amino acid tyrosine increases dopamine.
I can see that my posts about TMJ issues are getting a lot of views. I’ve even gotten a few phone calls.
I am not able to offer any bodywork sessions at this time, by Texas law. I can only offer distance energy healing sessions on a sliding scale basis. Both the recipients of those sessions and I have experienced success with this way of working. It can be even more powerful than doing sessions in person.
I encourage you, if these weird times are bringing up your stuff, to set up an appointment.
Even when it becomes legal to work again, I am holding off until I feel comfortable that it’s safe for you, me, the person who comes in after you, and my officemates and their clients.
I would prefer more testing.
I would prefer more knowledge about antibodies.
I would prefer more knowledge about prevention. (Some not-yet-peer-reviewed research says that those with high Vitamin D levels in their blood had the mildest cases, so please, supplement and get some safe sun. If you’d like to order this and whatever other supplements you need online, you get 30% off using my Wellevate practitioner account: https://wellevate.me/mary-ann-reynolds.)
My safety concerns especially apply to my TMJ Relief sessions, which include working inside the mouth. It will take longer for me to safely bring those back.
If you have TMJ issues, please search for and join my Facebook group Word of Mouth: Resources for TMJ Issues/Dysfunction, if you haven’t already. It includes educational units about TMJ issues, including self-massage, exercises, yoga, and hypnosis that can be done at home.
Siri Scull, certified hypnotist, coach, and nutritionist, and I (MaryAnn Reynolds, LMT, board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, provider of TMJ relief sessions) are offering a free class on April 1, 7:30-8:45 pm at Soma Vida.
This (optional) class serves as an introduction to our 4-class series offered remotely via Zoom on April 8, 15, 22, and 29 at the same time period.
This 4-class series includes: ~ Hypnotic visualizations to help you unwind tightness ~ Specialized exercises and techniques to soften the jaw ~ Nutritional & supplement suggestions to promote relaxation ~ Best sleep practices to promote a relaxed jaw ~ Ongoing support as you change habits on a conscious and unconscious level
The tuition is $149 for the 4-class series taught over Zoom. Save $25 if you bring a friend! You may pay MaryAnn via PayPal (paypal.me/maryannreynolds) or Venmo (www.venmo.com/MaryAnn-Reynolds-1) at the April 1st meeting or before April 8 to secure your spot.
Class is taught by Mary Ann Reynolds, MS, LMT, board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, providing TMJ Relief sessions and packages, AND Siri Scull, NC CHt, certified Hypnotherapist, Coach, and Nutritional Counselor specializing in habit change.