According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMJ affects an estimated 10 million Americans every year with some research stating that 75% will experience it at some point in their lives. TMJ, or Temporomandibular joint disorder or dysfunction, can be very painful for anyone dealing with this issue.
This disorder is often caused by the clenching or grinding of teeth which then tightens and sometimes even locks up the muscles connecting the lower jaw bone to the skull. It can also be caused by an injury to the neck or head like whiplash, arthritis, or even stress. Symptoms of this disorder include pain or tenderness in your face, neck, or jaw muscles. This can cause it to be difficult to open your mouth wide, speak, or eat. You may also experience a clicking or popping sound in your ear while you chew or a feeling of your jaw getting “stuck” while opening. These symptoms can make it difficult to accomplish daily tasks and impact your quality of life.
There are many invasive forms of treatment available to treat TMJ like surgery, dental work, splints, and strong pain medications. However, we prefer the more natural hands on approach before opting for these other forms of treatments. Massage therapy has been used for hundreds of years to relieve muscle pain in the body, and your temporomandibular muscles are not excluded. These are the muscles that connect your jaw bone to your skull and affect the surrounding muscles in your head and neck as well. If one set of muscles is injured or tense, it will be felt in its neighboring muscles as well.
Through massage therapy, we are able to gently work on all of those muscles and help relieve the tension tightening them up. One of the methods of massage that is available for TMJ is called intraoral massage. This is where a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ will massage the inside muscles of your mouth and directly address the muscles in the affected joint. Naturally, your therapist will always wear gloves while performing this therapy. Most patients experience no additional pain during the session and often report a relaxing in their face and neck and pain relief. The pain relief can be a result of both the calming of the tightened muscles as well as the release of endorphins that we are all fond of.
After your massage session you will need to try to not increase the possibility of your TMJ symptoms returning. Try to keep your stress low, concentrate on relaxing your jaw muscles, and avoid foods that are hard or tough to chew, even wearing a mouth guard during sleep will help. If your symptoms do return despite your best efforts, there are home remedies available for you to use in between massage sessions.
At Urban Squeeze, all of our facials include facial massage, and so whether you are getting a full-body massage, or a facial treatment, we can help you soothe your tight jaw muscles!
Sometimes TMJ can only be treated through the more extreme methods of treatment, but it is nice to know that there are other options to explore first. Be sure to always talk with your doctor first and work towards finding the best treatment plan for you.