This list and commentary below contains a bit of medicine we could all use to soothe stress, the common denominator for tmj and jaw pain clients. This kind of pain gets loaded from unconscious stress mechanisms and gets reflected throughout the musculoskeletal system along with emotional, spiritual and mental parts of ourselves.
Self Care for TMJ pain
Relieve muscles of the face and head
Soothe the Vagus Nerve (often overstimulated)
Care for the pelvis, sacrum, and low back
Water and Salt (the easy way to feel good)
De-Stress and Nourish the 5th Chakra
The temperomandibular joint (tmj) or jaw, is a cornerstone of our survival: breathing, airway when swallowing. Also - taking in nourishment in breaking down food, taking in liquids. On top of that: communication, expression, language, and intimacy, as in kissing. For a mammal, communication, belonging to others, alerting others to danger or our own wants and needs is also survival. When threatened, we tend to show our teeth.
No wonder tension and pain arises there for so many people.
Night-time clenching and grinding is a favorite way our body mitigates stress at the unconcious level. Joint capsule problems, malocclusion, bruxism, injuries, chewing imbalances, temporal bone misalignment, postural dysfunction such as "forward head," pain in the upper neck, extensive dental history including surgeries, orthodontia, extractions, and bridges can all change the alignment of "bite" and thus change the balance of the muscles the move the jaw, as can the discomfort of sinus infection and blockage.
The main jaw muscle, the masseter, is responsible for 50% of the tension in our bodies. This is due to its location near the brainstem, where the generation of reflexive and unconscious somatic motor responses are running all the time. As we relax the jaw, the body follows.
When stress peaks, the fight or flight response of the limbic system puts a squeeze on surrounding tissues near the brain stem, which is directly in between and behind the jaw joints. Eating habits, expression, emotions, posture, sleep, and inner balance can immediately reflect a system on high alert and can create a negative feedback loops of tension throughout the tissues in our heads, as well as our thoughts, words, actions and relationships.
Michael Hamm, of Neurofascial Approach, says that the main job of the tmj is to assess the level of threat in the environment.
My teacher's teacher, Hugh Milne said that over 60% of his tmj clients were women who were conditioned with the epithet: "If you can't say something nice, don't say something at all."
Relieve muscles of the face and head
with Craniosacral - and self care at home.
Craniosacral Therapy is ideally suited to help with TMJ because unlike massage, it can work with the hard-to-access primary jaw muscles inside the mouth. It also treats the sutures, fluid systems, fascia, muscles, and bones of the head and jaw bone. Like Massage Therapy, however, Craniosacral Therapy puts our client's comfort first. I see significant results in my clients with TMJ, headaches, migraines, vertigo, and dizziness in 1-4 visits, if visits are within 2-5 weeks of each other.
Place your fingers in gaps near bony structures in the jaw, just in front of the ear. With the fingers holding each jaw, gently open the mouth about 5%. Gently close. Repeat 7 times. Increase or decrease pressure of your fingers as needed. Rub the bony structures behind the ear and at the base of the skull, the temples and side of the head. Use an essential oil: Cedarwood, Juniper, Lavendar, Clary Sage, Frankinsense, Roman Chamomile, Rose, or Sandalwood.
For difficulty or pain with opening the jaw: find a clean household object (the size of a wine cork) and place between the teeth starting at 2 minutes twice a day. After a week, increase to 4 minutes twice a day.
Use a hot water compress covered by a cloth and hold on painful spots.
Hydrate yourself when you wake up and before lunch to get the ball rolling if you're low. Nourished and hydrated massage clients get the most bang for their massage dollar, its true.
Nourish the cells of muscle tissue internally with homeopathic medicine like arnica montana or a magnesium supplement like "Calm" sold at health food stores or herbal medicine. Also nourish externally as needed. Try an herbal topical such as The Herbalist's Ache-less Rub, Arnica oil, Traumeel, Tiger balm, or any topical analgesic you like best.
For more about chronic pain, read Chronic Pain Recovery in Six Steps.
Soothe the vagus nerve in the body.
The vagus nerve brings the body into its relaxed, parasympathetic state and is vital in bringing the body out of inflammation and the stress response. Here's an easy thing to do! Apply a cool wet cloth to the temples. Aaah. Do it again. Aaah. Do it everytime you have a moment, perhaps before leaving the restroom. Big exhale. You'll find more holistic self care ways to soothe your vagus nerve here. And don't forget about those essential oil hydrosols like a rose petal witch hazel spray on your temples, face, neck, nape. Aaaaah, that's my favorite way. Rosewater any moment. Aaah.
Child's pose and Legs up the Wall are ways to bring the body to Mid-tide flow of cerebral spinal fluid, the tide in which the body engages its own self healing impulses. For more on the tides and their mental-emotional-physical components see my blog article.
Care for the muscles of the pelvis, sacrum, and low back.
The muscles of the jaw refer directly to the muscles of the hip and pelvis. If you have TMJ pain, you likely also have lower back, sacral or hip tension. Is that true for you? See your therapist and/or address it with more diy back relief like this:
Roll out your pelvis and stretch your hamstrings like this. Sit on your heels, and gently rock to each side, working the attachment of the hamstring muscles at the pelvic sits bones. Sit cris-cross applesauce on the floor instead of on the couch when watching a show. Squats open up the pelvis. I use a back device called the True Back and I love it. Sit on the floor hold your knees to your chest and roll back and forth on your back to relieve back muscles and tone abdominal muscles and core, move around and explore the space by rolling around. Roll for longer on painful sore areas. Try rolling for 7 minutes; you can set a timer once a day.
Water and Salt
Do a salt scrub. Before leaving the shower, turn off the water and pour a good salt into your hands and rub all over your body, even the scalp, avoiding any broken or freshly shaved skin. Then rinse with cold water if you can take it and hot water if ya can't! Twice a week, or everyday. Or take an epsom salt bath. Both the salt scrub and the salt bath nourishes and maintains the chemical balances in your skin and muscle cells, improving nerve and motor function. Add lavendar or sandalwood oil if you like healing that feels spoilingly good.
De-Stress and Nourish the 5th Chakra, Vishuddha.
Before amazing quality of life can emerge, stress needs to be understood within one's own body, and attended to ~especially in the TMJ area.
There is inherent vitality in addressing a deep need at the TMJ and its bioenergetic counterpart, the 5th Chakra. Take your time and use these suggestions as a wind-down-for the-day contemplation exercise.
The energy centers in our body, called the chakras, and the energy fields around our body modulate our system amongst larger natural systems and in the mix, the energy of our words....matter. Thoughts, words and emotions of balance promote inner harmony, literally and physically, not as faith, but in actual experience, in the body, in the present.
The 5th Chakra is directly over the jaw and its importance is expression, listening, and the balance between the two. In Vishuddha, we contemplate our expression in the world; what we show, what we restrain. Thoughts and beliefs may be over or under expressed. Balance in this area shows up as ease in communication and understanding....and to be human is to experience imperfect examples of these:)
So no judgement at all, please. This is super human stuff in all of us that needs to be balanced and nourished on occaision.
Dysfunction and pain in the area of Vishuddha, the 5th Chakra, can indicate a need to pay attention to better listening skills such as being silent and still while another person is talking. Gossiping, secrecy, judgement, mixed messages, dishonesty are imbalances of the 5th Chakra.
On the other extreme it may manifest as a deficiency of expression. One of my teachers, Hugh Milne, instructs us to educate the client to notice when they "swallow truth and notice anger and aggression and when anger is restrained." Milne noted in his practice that 60% of the people coming in for TMJ problems were female and conditioned with "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
If almost constant use of devices and media in the form of entertainment are a part of daily life, it may or may not indicate that less "noise" for a while might help one to find inner calm and centeredness.
Things that bring the 5th Chakra into balance include the practice of still and quiet, being in the present, or meditation. Talking with others from your heart and telling the truths about your life with those you trust and love nurtures a healthy 5th Chakra. Journalling and automatic writing keep the valves open and oiled so you can notice and cultivate your inner monologue with greater awareness and intention. Don Miguel Ruiz tells us,
"Impeccability of the word can lead you to personal freedom, to huge success and abundance....Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love."
More honey for your 5th Chakra is chanting. Chant sacred words. Any of them. Michio Kushi explains "When sounds are repeatedly prounouced in the form of meditation and prayer, in the good sitting posture, active vibrations energize all parts of the body, and mental-spiritual vitalities start to arise.
Yogananda said "The infinite potencies of sound derive from the Creative Word, Aum, the cosmic vibratory power behind all atomic energies. Any word spoken with clear realization and deep concentration has a materializing value."
A Ma Te Ra Su O O Mi Ka Mi. According to Kushi, this sacred word from traditional Shintoism was considered in prehistoric Japapn to be the "Ten Syllable Divine Words" meaning "Heavenly Shining Great Graceful Spirit."
Along with nourishing the 5th Chakra let's nod one more time at a time-honored stress reliever. It is the form of rest, or napping. Grossly under-rated and under-balanced in our culture.
Set an alarm for a 10 minute timer once or twice a day, for the purpose of defining some down time, real down time. Meditate sitting up cross legged or lay down with your feet up, under a blanket and bolster your knees and bolster your low back or upper back, as you feel called. The idea is a passive relaxation position. Music is okay, try candlelight. No read, no look at phone. Look at ceiling. Breathe and rest in stillness. End your rest with hearts to the universe or not.
For all causes, symptoms, and discomforts, there is an opening. The authentic endeavor to address your body's signals and cultivate possibility and solution is a blessing all its own. In electing to treat your TMJ naturally, holistically, you open pathways to the well being of your jaw, head and neck and you open to greater self love and self care.... that results in lower stress levels.
Give it a little of your time, for each effort of self care adds up cumulatively.
Best wishes. Stay on the path of finding and applying what nourishes you.
May you be happy
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