Comments enabled and welcome

I just learned that dozens of people left comments from the Contact page of this website that I didn’t know about. Some of them went back to 2017.

Some of you contacted me by phone, and we tended to the issue. I have not heard back from everyone who left a comment, however. I am sorry if you left a comment and never heard back from me.

I have fixed the problem so that now I get an email notification if someone leaves a comment.

Moving up the learning curve…MaryAnn.

Massage therapy for jaw pain

The January/February 2019 issue of Massage & Bodywork (magazine for massage therapists) includes the article “Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: Biting Off More Than We Can Chew”. It’s full of information about the anatomy, pathology, demographics, contributing factors, symptoms, and treatment options for TMJD. The author is Ruth Werner, who wrote A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology.

The article mentions that many dental professionals enthusiastically recommend massage therapy as an early intervention for TMJ disorders, which are often accompanied by dysfunction elsewhere in the body — the shoulder girdle, pelvis, and feet, for example.   Regular massage therapy sessions can also help relieve pain and tension in the external jaw muscles.

The author states, “The [internal] pterygoid muscles require more specialized skill… Work inside the mouth carries some serious responsibilities… It’s not for beginners, and it’s not for dabbling. When things go wrong in this joint, problems can reverberate through the whole body… [Massage therapists working inside the mouth should] get advanced training…

“Intraoral massage may trigger unintended responses… Emotional release in response to work in and around the mouth is also a strong possibility. It is critical that massage therapists be mindful of their scope of practice and respectful of their clients’ processes if this happens. Massage therapists must be prepared to be present, nonjudgmental, and appropriately supportive for this kind of event. Once again, it’s not for dabblers. If you want to do this work, get appropriate training.”

After reading this, I feel good about what I do. Massage therapists trained to work inside the mouth mostly follow three paths of advanced training: craniosacral therapy (like me), neuromuscular therapy, and structural integration (aka Rolfing).

Also, not all craniosacral therapists or neuromuscular therapists work with the internal pterygoid muscles, so be sure to ask beforehand if that’s what you expect. That was part of my training with Ryan Hallford, not (so far) with the Upledger Institute.

Also, I’m thanking the Upledger Institute for my training in SomatoEmotional Release as well as past experience and research in trauma recovery.

I’m grateful to see that treatment for TMJ disorders by licensed massage therapists is getting media attention, and that TMJD itself is getting more recognition. The TMJ Association recently announced that the National Institutes of Health have agreed to do more research. It’s very much needed — practitioners know what we don’t know, and it’s a lot.

Treating TMJ issues: the effects of stress

For decades, the news has cautioned us about the ill effects of stress on our health, longevity, and happiness. But what is stress and how do you know when you are experiencing it? What does it have to do with jaw pain and dysfunction? Most of all, what can you do about it?

Stress is your body’s response to threats, real or imagined. You become alert, focused, and energized, ready for action. It is a physiological response designed to protect you in dangerous situations, to get you away from the danger or to confront it. Something in us is always scanning for danger and ready to respond.

It also gives you the energy to meet life’s challenges, for example, taking a test, interviewing for a job, making an important presentation, having a difficult conversation, scoring a point, winning a game, driving safely. Doing anything difficult where you care about the outcome requires some extra energy and focus.

So stress isn’t inherently bad — but too much stress can damage your health and quality of life. In the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic dominance of the autonomic nervous system), your body releases stress hormones. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, your breathing quickens, and your senses become sharper, all so you can respond to the situation.

We’re designed to respond this way in extraordinary situations, and the rest of the time (which ideally would be most of the time), to live peacefully, nourishing ourselves, cooperating with the group, resting, relaxing, having fun, and enjoying our lives (parasympathetic dominance, or rest-and-digest mode).

Physiologically, the heart rate slows, breathing slows, blood pressure goes down, muscles relax, and attention becomes broader. In this state, your system has more resources for digesting and assimilating your food and repairing damage.

The switch from rest-and-digest to fight-or-flight occurs quickly and automatically, bypassing your conscious mind. You become aware afterwards that your state has changed.

This is a good exercise: How do you know you are experiencing stress? What tips you off? Do you notice a sudden sharp inhalation and muscle tension? (That’s what I notice.) Do you feel your heart pounding? Do you notice that your mind suddenly becomes focused and alert?

Another good exercise: How do you know you’re okay? Is there a kinesthetic signature that lets you know you are relaxed? I feel a peaceful, happy feeling in my chest. What do you notice?

What does stress have to do with jaw pain and dysfunction? Almost every bit of information available about the causes of TMD connects it to stress. Muscle tension is a universal response to stress. The jaw muscles tighten.

Most everyone experiences stress, but not everyone experiences jaw symptoms. No one seems to know why this is. Here are some of my observations and hypotheses.

  • I’ve observed that most people carry way more muscle tension from stress in their upper bodies, in the upper back, shoulders, neck, jaw, and/or face. For some, all of those places get tense. For others, only one or two get tense.
  • The jaw is the only part involved in chewing and talking. Chewing doesn’t have any associations with threats or danger that I can think of. If the food tastes good and is safe and your teeth and jaws are healthy, chewing is a pleasure.
  • Talking can be dangerous. Some clients have directly related the onset of their jaw symptoms with feeling unsafe about freely expressing themselves about a difficult situation they had with another human being. This could have happened long, long ago, with the unpleasant memory being repressed.
  • Some people have had so much stress and/or trauma in their lives, it’s become chronic. They don’t know how to deeply relax.

Maybe some people are predisposed to have jaw issues. It could be from the strains of their birth and an attempt to reshape the head. It could be a learned strain pattern that runs in their family. It could be from a lack of nutrients that help form healthy jaws (read more about the work of Weston A. Price, DDS, on this topic). I’m sure there are many other possibilities.

I do know that for everyone, help is available. You can release (or get help releasing) the tension in your jaw muscles. You can examine your past, with psychotherapeutic help or by journaling or talking to a trusted friend. You can learn to deeply relax, and it’s a pleasure. And that’s a good topic for tomorrow.

Treating TMJ issues: music and meditation to heal the throat chakra

Previously I shared two links to YouTube recordings of music to heal the throat chakra in this post, in case you missed it.

Today, I want to share more about this.

Keep in mind that the throat chakra includes the throat, jaw, chin, mouth, lips, cheeks, nose, and ears — basically from the clavicles to the eyes. 

Sound penetrates our bodies. We’ve probably all felt the vibration in our bodies when we’ve been near a large bell being rung or a gong being struck or loud music coming through a speaker.

Since sound travels in waves, and we are made of waves as well as particles, of course it enters our tissue, fluid, and energy fields and influences us.

The human love of rhythm and music must go way back, long before writing and probably before language. Harmonic sound is pleasing, and we are immersed in natural rhythms: our heartbeats, breath, deeper rhythms within us, circadian and celestial rhythms, life cycles. 

I believe sound can harmonize our bodies at a cellular level, creating higher coherence, which means our various systems coordinate with each other better.

Can sound cure cancer? I haven’t heard of that, but I believe it’s possible.

In my experience, sound can definitely create a sense of inner peace.

Insight Timer

I use the free smart phone app Insight Timer for meditation. It has a timer for silent meditation, chanting, and breathing among other practices, and thousands of guided meditations and music for meditation.

In the app, you can do a search on “throat” to find guided meditations and music for the throat chakra. There are many! 

I found seven musical meditations, ranging from 4 to 35 minutes in length. The one I’ve listened to most is Throat Chakra Singing Bowls, by Sonic Yogi (29 minutes).

(If you don’t want to use the app, that meditation is also available on Bandcamp here.)

Self-Healing

Healing takes place when we are relaxed, when our parasympathetic nervous systems (rest and digest) are dominant.

If music can help get us there, our bodies can work on healing.

To take your self-healing further, while you listen, visualize sky blue or turquoise light surrounding your neck and jaws.

Imagine a sense of spaciousness.

Deliberately relax the tight muscles with each exhalation.

If you are suffering from TMJ pain and discomfort, I hope you will find some relief from listening to music designed to clear and heal the throat chakra.


What to do if you have jaw issues? I offer a 30-minute in-person TMJ consultation to gather information and evaluate your issues. I also teach clenchers an alternative to clenching and provide known ways to stop grinding, from those who succeeded.

These habits are major contributors to TMJ issues, and you can change them.

If you’re not in Austin, I can do the above as well as help you learn what to ask about when seeking TMJ relief near you. Just let me know if you need a phone or Zoom consultation.

I offer a combination TMJ Consultation plus TMJ Relief session in person in Austin, Texas, and in Taos, NM, in sumemrs. The consultation serves as an intake, so I have a better idea of what your issues are and how we’ll measure progress. Your consultation is free when combined with your first TMJ Relief session. This is a two-hour session.

To be fair, when you’ve had TMJ issues for a long time, or they are acute, you may need multiple sessions to retrain your system to retain the ease and alignment, along with doing your homework to stop clenching or grinding your teeth.

I offer a package of four TMJ Relief sessions for 10 percent off single sessions, best done a week or two apart. These sessions are 90 minutes and integrate various bodywork modalities — including work in your mouth — so that you feel great when you get off the table. They are best done over 4 to 6 weeks.

If you’re really adventurous, you can schedule a 75-minute Self-Treatment for TMJ Issues session on Zoom where we’ll do an intake and I will teach you how to work on releasing the tension patterns that cause problems, including working in your own mouth. You’ll need clean hands and short nails. It’s really not that hard! Learn more about it here.

Treating TMJ issues: acupressure points for self-care

Recently I wrote about how acupuncture can help relieve jaw pain and the stress that often accompanies it. Today’s post is about doing acupressure on yourself for TMJ issues.

Keep in mind that if you see an acupuncturist, they will do an evaluation that may show other issues that they can address, with a focus on getting your whole system in balance.

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 8.53.21 AM
Image source: acupressure.com

But acupressure can help. The leading expert on using acupressure, Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D., has a page on pressure points for sinus problems, jaw, TMJ, and bruxism and includes a 4:07 video (go to 1:18 for the jaw points).

He recommends holding them for a couple of minutes 2-3 times a day for a few weeks or months for best results if your jaw pain is chronic. Sinus, Jaw, TMJ and Bruxism Acupressure is 4:08.

Heather Wibbel’s video (3:43) shows four points to apply pressure.

This site has good images of four points, two of which Heather covers (SI 19 and ST6), with two other points on the cranium (ST7 and GB12) that can help.

(Note: If you Google this topic, be aware that not all the results are credible. I found one that pictured ST36 on the leg while describing a point on the face!)


What to do if you have jaw issues? I offer a 30-minute in-person TMJ consultation to gather information and evaluate your issues. I also teach clenchers an alternative to clenching and provide known ways to stop grinding, from those who succeeded.

These habits are major contributors to TMJ issues, and you can change them.

If you’re not in Austin, I can do the above as well as help you learn what to ask about when seeking TMJ relief near you. Just let me know if you need a phone or Zoom consultation.

I offer a combination TMJ Consultation plus TMJ Relief session in person in Austin, Texas, and in Taos, NM, in sumemrs. The consultation serves as an intake, so I have a better idea of what your issues are and how we’ll measure progress. Your consultation is free when combined with your first TMJ Relief session. This is a two-hour session.

To be fair, when you’ve had TMJ issues for a long time, or they are acute, you may need multiple sessions to retrain your system to retain the ease and alignment, along with doing your homework to stop clenching or grinding your teeth.

I offer a package of four TMJ Relief sessions for 10 percent off single sessions, best done a week or two apart. These sessions are 90 minutes and integrate various bodywork modalities — including work in your mouth — so that you feel great when you get off the table. They are best done over 4 to 6 weeks.

If you’re really adventurous, you can schedule a 75-minute Self-Treatment for TMJ Issues session on Zoom where we’ll do an intake and I will teach you how to work on releasing the tension patterns that cause problems, including working in your own mouth. You’ll need clean hands and short nails. It’s really not that hard! Learn more about it here.