What do various healing professions do to treat TMJ issues?
I’m going to try to answer that, to help you be better health-care consumers and know what to expect in terms of results.
By the way, I am a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ work, including intra-oral (inside the mouth) work, in which I’ve had advanced training from three teachers and experience since 2013. I admit, I am biased!
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 do have the skills to release tension in the external jaw and neck muscles. Maybe that’s all you need, if your jaw pain is mild and intermittent. You will feel better after such sessions.
But if you are really suffering from long-term jaw pain and dysfunction, you definitely need more than that to get relief. You could 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.
Whole-body work can also help, when the TMJ pain is related to your posture (for instance, head forward posture) or to muscle tension due to stress.
Here’s a look at results you might expect from working with practitioners in different professions:
- 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 (massage therapist)
- doing myofascial release on your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
- releasing neck tension (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
- getting your pelvis aligned and balanced (massage therapist, physical therapist, craniosacral therapist, chiropractor)
- getting your head aligned on top of your spine (craniosacral therapist, chiropractor)
- preventing your teeth from cracking due to grinding (dentist or over-the-counter night guard)
- checking whether grinding in your sleep is related to airway obstruction (sleep specialist)
- reducing tension in your internal jaw muscles (massage therapist with special training, physical therapist with special training, Rolfer as part of 10-series)
- restoring alignment in the cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
- repairing or replacing a dysfunctional articular disk (oral surgeon)
- getting whole-body therapy to help with alignment issues and release strain patterns (craniosacral therapist, Rolfer, Zero Balancer, yoga teacher, yoga therapist)
There is one major caveat here: these are generalities based on my own knowledge and experience. Each profession has its specialties. Not all physical therapists work on the jaw or pelvis — in fact, not many do.
Do not hesitate to ask questions and do your own research.
This is a brief and imperfect overview to help you get the results you want, and there are many fine points not mentioned here.
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 teach clenchers an alternative to clenching as well as the above information to stop grinding.
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. 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.