Coming soon! A class for dental offices

I have been taking a fantastic class called NLP+Presentations. The first part was this past weekend, and the second part will be in mid-February.

I’m working on a presentation for dental offices. It will be an hour max, so it could be a lunch-and-learn or a training offered to staff early or late in the workday.

I probably don’t need to tell you that some people complain of jaw pain after receiving dental work.

Dental professionals need to accommodate them by offering frequent breaks from wide-open mouth position — some even use devices to keep the mouth cranked wide open.

Dental offices also experience cancellations when someone’s jaw pain has flared up and they can’t even imagine holding their mouth open for dental treatment.

In fact, dental professionals are often the first health care professionals to let someone know that their clenching and/or grinding habit is damaging their teeth.

Although they offer orthotic devices to protect teeth and/or try to realign the TMJs, and they can usually repair the tooth damage they encounter, they don’t work on the biggest cause of jaw pain — myofascial tension. In fact, most dentists receive little or no training in the jaw — their domain is teeth and gums.

As a massage therapist, my domain is the myofascial realm of muscles and soft tissues. I work on postural issues, shoulder and neck tension, decompression of cranial bones, and do intra-oral work on all four internal jaw muscles — as gently as possible.

I can help dental offices help their patients, and I believe we can work well together.

If you think your dentist might be interested in this free training, please connect us. I’ll be offering trainings starting in late February.

Free consultation for TMJ issues

I’m please to announce I’ve added a new service. If you have jaw pain or dysfunction and are wondering if I can do anything for you, please schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

A lot of people, including dentists, are not aware that appropriately trained massage therapists can work on relieving your TMJ issues that are due to muscle tension or trauma. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 8.44.49 PMI’ll ask about your symptoms and your history. I’ll also evaluate your body, including your neck and jaw.

Then we can talk about treatment options. If you’ve never had manual therapy for jaw pain and dysfunction, or if you’ve received it previously from a different practitioner, I’ll be happy to tell you what a typical session is like and the typical progression if you are curious about buying a series of sessions.

Please note: What I find once I start working and how well your system responds are variable with bodywork.

I’ve been doing TMJ Relief sessions since 2014. My teacher was Ryan Hallford of the Craniosacral Resource Center in Southlake, TX. I’ve taken his cranial base/TMJ class twice and been a teaching assistant for it when Christian Current taught. In addition, I’ve studied craniosacral therapy with the Upledger Institute.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and don’t hesitate to read the testimonials on my What People Are Saying page.

Treating TMJ issues: releasing trigger points in your jaw muscles

You have four jaw muscles: the two large ones on the outside of your head (the masseter and temporalis) and the four small ones inside your mouth (two medial pterygoids and two lateral pterygoids).

Any of them can get trigger points.

What is a trigger point? Healthy muscle tissue is made of bundles of fibers that run in the same direction. This tissue is pliable. It stretches or contracts when you move.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 8.36.04 AMA trigger point is a spot where the muscle tissue has lost its pliability. A massage therapist may feel that the fibers in a particular spot have become glued together and hard, creating a small nodule. The tissue feels denser and often rolls under the fingers, compared to healthy muscle tissue.

This causes that band of muscle fibers to become shorter and tighter, restricting full range of movement of the entire muscle.

If you can’t open your mouth wide, or move your jaw easily left and right, forward and back, you may very well have trigger points in your jaw muscles.

Trigger points usually feel tender when you apply pressure to them, and they may also refer pain elsewhere. They may also form “constellations.” This makes them the tricksters of the nervous system.

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 someone else work on them, especially if you have a lot of them in multiple jaw muscles.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 8.08.14 AMMy favorite reference book for working with trigger points is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, third edition, by Clair Davies and Amber Davies.

It is written for laypeople to release their own trigger points, but I know many massage therapists who use it as a reference book in their offices.

When I am working on TMJ issues, I notice that many 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 pressure, drag your fingers slowly down the masseter muscle on one side of your face. Do this several times, experimenting with adding pressure, and notice if there are tender spots or “roll-y” spots. Repeat on the other masseter.

If you don’t have masseter trigger points, this usually feels pretty good.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 8.41.19 AM
Source: The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

If you find trigger points in your masseters (and you can still have 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 this 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 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 works intra-orally, as do I, but her experience is greater than mine, and she’s amazing at discovering patterns if you have “constellations” of trigger points. She’s going to be more efficient than I can possibly be. She is the queen!

If you are interested in having her work on you, her name is Rose of Sharon, and 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.

Treating TMJ issues: what chiropractors do to help

Okay, I admit that I’m in unfamiliar territory here. I’m using Google to watch videos of how chiropractors treat TMJ pain and dysfunction.

By now, we know what TMJ disorder is, the various causes, and several other treatments. I am looking at what chiropractors actually do to treat it, and I am interested in hearing from (and about) local chiropractors who use other techniques than the ones described here, so please comment, and if you have a video, please provide a link.

I found a useful video from a Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Walter Salubro, who demonstrates how he assesses the motion of the jaw by observing a patient opening and closing her jaw and noticing whether it deviates to the right or left. He does a “three finger test” to determine if the jaw can open to a normal degree. He then assesses the bones in the neck for subluxations (misalignments), especially at the upper neck/base of skull. He demonstrates adjusting the neck and then adjusting the TMJ on both sides using a drop table that releases misalignments. Then he reassesses. (8:43)

Dr. Jason Scolar demonstrates the Active Release Technique for TMJ dysfunction. He works to release the external jaw muscles — the masseter and temporalis — as the patient opens and closes her jaw. Then he uses his hand to release adhesions in the jaw joints one side at a time with a typical chiropractic joint-popping movement. (I’m sure this has a technical name, but I don’t know what it is. If you’ve had traditional chiropractic treatment, you’ll know what I mean.)

He also works on the underside of the mandible to release muscle tension there. Then he puts on gloves to work inside the patient’s mouth. He mentions it will be more uncomfortable and more painful. I see him working rather quickly on the lateral pterygoid, again as the patient opens and closes her mouth (you can see the pain on her face), and then he does an external adjustment to the jaw. (5:55)

By the way, the Active Release Technique is practiced by massage therapists (mostly doing sports massage), chiropractors, and physical therapists. You can google “Active Release Technique” to see who’s certified in the Austin area. Not all may do jaw work.

There may be other techniques that chiropractors use to treat TMJ. What I like is assessing the upper neck and working there. I’ve noticed it’s usually quite tight in people who have come to me with jaw issues. The axis of the jaw opening and closing is actually in the upper neck, at C2, so I see how working there can improve jaw function.

I myself prefer not to have any kind of sudden adjustment, especially not in my neck. It may get the bones in place, but it feels jarring and unsettling to my nervous system and takes a while to recover my energetic equilibrium. I work on the upper neck using techniques that are gentle and slow. I know many others do appreciate  the pop.

What I want to get across is that some chiropractors are good at helping people with jaw issues. If you want to try chiropractic treatment for your TMJ issues, it’s a good idea to:

  • check out the training, experience, and techniques chiropractors use for treatment
  • ask for recommendations from people with the same issue

See you back here tomorrow!