After spending 4 days recently taking a class called “Addressing the Skull,” I want to get you onto my massage table so I can practice, practice, practice! It’s the best way I know to integrate training into, well, my advanced integrative bodywork practice.
I also need your help naming this new addition to my repertoire. I want to describe it separately from a Zero Balancing session. In my view, a ZB session addresses the whole body, including the head, whereas a skull/cranium/crown session spends most of a 45-minute session on the head.
This was a class in Zero Balancing, which aligns your structure and frees your energy, but most of the session will be spent addressing your skull. I learned lots of secrets of the skull, including that working on the outside of the skull affects the inside, i.e., the brain. And it’s not exactly a massage. It uses artful touch and knowledge of anatomy to find those places that release tension you may not have even known you had.
For instance, there is a place behind your ears that is similar to that place where dogs love to be petted, behaving as if they could never get enough, leg twitching and groaning with pleasure.
There are several special places on your skull where two or three or four bones come together that just love to be touched.
I imagine that everyone in the class experienced several releases of tension in their skulls that they were not aware of before. We can get so habituated to stress that it gets normalized. Guess what? Normal can be better. (Thanks to San Antonio ZBer Jamie Carmody for making “Make normal better” her tagline.)
I suspect this work may prevent headaches and migraines.
After four days of training, which included many trades, my friend and I noticed that we could see better. When looking into our training room, the 3D-ness of everything was in sharper relief, and everything had more clarity. Working on the head affects all the senses.
This is your brain, on ZB.
I plan to run this special for a couple of weeks, and may consider extending it after that. I’ve lowered my price by $25 for a 45-minute Zero Balancing session. Go here to book yours.
You have nine jaw muscles: two pairs of large ones on the outside of your head (the masseters and temporalises), four small ones inside your mouth (two medial pterygoids and two lateral pterygoids), and one in the floor of your mouth (digastric).
Any of them can get trigger points.
What is a trigger point? It’s unhealthy muscle tissue that causes pain that can occur locally to the trigger point or at some distance — referred pain.
Healthy muscle tissue is made of bundles of fibers that run in the same direction. This tissue is pliable. It contains fluid. It stretches or contracts when you move.
A trigger point is a spot where the muscle tissue has lost its pliability. A massage therapist may feel that some tissue in a particular spot feels hard, creating a small nodule that’s hard and stiff. The tissue feels dense and often rolls under the fingers when compared to healthy muscle tissue.
Trigger points cause that band of muscle fibers within a muscle to shorten and tighten, restricting full range of movement of the entire muscle.
Trigger points feel tender when you apply pressure to them.
Where several of them occur in an area, they form “constellations.” If one of those trigger points in the constellation is the primary one and the rest are satellites, it takes trial and error to locate and treat the primary one — and until that happens, the satellites keep reoccurring.
This makes them the tricksters of the nervous system, and it’s why specialists in trigger point therapy are rare and sought after.
You can work on your own trigger points to release them. It helps if you’ve received trigger point work from an experienced massage therapist, but you can learn to do it yourself. Even then, you may prefer to have a massage therapist work on them, especially if you have a lot of them.
Even with an experienced therapist working on your trigger points, sometimes the body clearly says “no more today,” a signal to move on to another technique and schedule another session.
It is written for laypeople to release their own trigger points, but many massage therapists use it as a reference book in their offices. I got my copy spiral-bound for ease of use.
When I am working on TMJ issues, I sometimes notice that people have trigger points in their masseters, the big external jaw muscles on the sides of your face that run from your cheekbone to the bottom of your jawbone.
Here’s how to find trigger points in your own jaw: using a bit of pressure, drag your fingers slowly down the masseter muscle on both sides of your face. Do this several times, experimenting with adding pressure, and notice if there are tender spots or small dense spots that roll under your fingers. Repeat on the other masseter.
If you don’t have masseter trigger points, this usually feels pretty good.
If you find trigger points in your masseters (and you can have other TMJ issues without them), there are several ways of treating them.
Some therapists apply a huge amount of pressure. I don’t recommend this because if you have TMJ issues, your jaw is probably already out of alignment, and applying lots of pressure could make it worse.
A better way, in my opinion, is to use less pressure. Yes, you can gently release trigger points!
I learned to do this from a local (Austin) massage therapist, Rose of Sharon, who is very experienced with trigger point release. She’s worked on me and released many trigger points, teaching me how to do this in the process.
If you have a lot of trigger points, I highly recommend seeing her. She’s amazing at discovering patterns if you have “constellations” of trigger points.
If you are interested in having her work on you, you can reach her by phone or text at 512-282-1672. Please leave a message with your name and number so she can contact you.
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.
I am back in the office after several days of serving as a teaching assistant for the training in TMJ and the cranial base. This class was taught by Christian Current, who did a great job teaching this for the first time. I’ve taken this class as a student twice from Ryan Hallford since 2013. They’ve both taught me a lot.
Christian is my officemate, along with Denise Deniger, who just completed this series as a student. It was a pleasure to be able to assist him and to share time with all of these biodynamic and classical craniosacral therapy students over the past 18 months. I’m looking forward to our study/practice group!
I’m also practicing the techniques I learned in the Upledger Institute’s classical craniosacral therapy classes and am signed up for another class in mid-August.
Between these trainings and several years of practice, I can help with many mouth and jaw issues of pain and alignment.
I’ve become aware that a lot of folks simply live with “issues in these tissues” because they don’t know that help is available. A dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard for TMJ problems, but this only protects the teeth from grinding away.
Real, lasting help means working with the muscles that hold the bones in place. Just as you can lengthen your hamstrings by holding a standing forward bend for a few minutes, a bodyworker trained in mouth work can guide the small but powerful muscles around your jaw to lengthen.
The work is gentle, slow, and precise. It should never hurt. You can signal me at any time to remove my gloved finger from your mouth.
This work can be helpful if you’ve had braces or a bridge that crosses the midline of your upper teeth. Dentists are not usually aware of the craniosacral rhythm, and braces and bridges can affect the alignment of your cranial bones.
Other reasons to seek out this work include having experienced facial or head injuries, including concussions. Curiosity is another good reason to come in!
I am running a special offer this summer: Come in for 60-minute craniosacral therapy sessions and pay $70 each. Just go to the home page and click the link to book your first appointment online. You’ll get an email confirmation, and you can opt for a text reminder the day before.