Treating TMJ issues: what various professions do to help

I’m going to write about what various healing professions do to treat TMJ issues to help you be good consumers and know what to expect in terms of results. I am a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ work, including intra-oral (inside the mouth) work, in which I’ve had special training.

I want to say up front that most massage therapists do not work inside the mouth, which is where the jaw muscles most likely to be causing TMJ pain are located. Most massage therapists have the skills to release tension in the external jaw and neck muscles. Maybe that’s all you need, if your jaw pain isn’t severe and it comes and goes. You will feel better after such sessions.

But if you are really suffering from chronic or severe jaw pain and dysfunction, you probably want a lot more than that. You will greatly benefit from intra-oral work, which takes special training and experience to do effectively.

Do not hesitate to ask whether a therapist you are considering working with is trained in releasing tension in the internal jaw muscles and uses gloves or finger cots.

Whole-body work can also help, when the TMJ pain is related to your posture (for instance, head forward posture).

These are the major results that help with TMJ symptoms, along with the professional training that can provide them:

  • reducing stress (massage therapist, acupuncturist, yoga teacher, meditation teacher)
  • reducing tension in your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
  • releasing trigger points in your external jaw muscles (any kind of therapist with trigger point release training)
  • releasing your neck tension (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
  • getting your pelvis aligned and balanced (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
  • preventing your teeth from cracking due to bruxism (dentist)
  • reducing tension in your internal jaw muscles (massage therapist with special training, physical therapist with special training, Rolfer)
  • getting craniosacral therapy to restore alignment in the external cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
  • getting craniosacral therapy to restore alignment in the internal cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
  • repairing a torn or perforated articular disk (oral surgeon — get reviews first)
  • getting whole-body therapy to help with alignment and release strain patterns (craniosacral therapist, Rolfer, Zero Balancer, yoga teacher, yoga therapist)

This is a brief and imperfect overview to help you get the results you want, and there are many fine points not mentioned here.

 

Therapy for the head, jaw, and mouth

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.

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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.