The most common cause of TMJ discomfort is from grinding and clenching the teeth. This is often done at night while we sleep, but can also occur throughout the day when we are stressed. One of the most popular treatments is the purchase of a mouth guard from one’s dentist. This apparatus is extremely important on many levels.
First of all, it protects the enamel of your teeth. With constant grinding and clenching, the tooth itself can wear away quite fast; leading to tooth loss, nerve damage, etc. Second, the mouth guard helps to reduce the habit. Our brain gets a feeling of satisfaction from feeling the 2 layers of teeth together. This is why the behavior increases during times of stress. The mouthguard places a layer of material between the teeth so that the brain cannot get the stress relief it is looking for. Over time, our brain will find another outlet.
So what does a massage therapist or an Acupuncturist have to do with a disorder that affects the teeth? Plenty! If you suffer from this, you know about the headaches and neck pain. TMJ affects the temporalis, masseters, pterygoid group, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, splenius group, occipitals, etc. The referral pain from these muscles can lead to various types of headaches, neck pain, muscle stiffness, clicking and popping of the jaw, tinnitus (ear ringing), mock sinus infections, dizziness, blurred vision, and more.
As a licensed massage therapist as well as an acupuncturist, I can work with you and your jaw from multiple angles to provide an inclusive treatment plan. Over the years, I have taken extra courses in special massage techniques that address the pain and dysfunction of tight muscles that are related to the temporomandibular joint.
This message will entail working on the local muscles of the joint as well as those muscle groups associated with the referral pain patterns. This means getting a 30-60 minute massage on the superior shoulders, neck, scalp, face, and inside the mouth. I will put gloves on to be able to address tight bands of muscle and trigger points in the smaller muscles directly related to the movement of the jaw. My dad was a dentist and I grew up working as a dental assistant in the summers, so I am quite comfortable putting on those gloves and doing what needs to be done to loosen up the area.
As an acupuncturist, I will take into consideration other signs and symptoms to establish which channel and element needs to be addressed. Often, only a few needles are needed in the larger masseter muscle as well as a few distal points to “clear the channel”. Acupuncture addresses the Body, Mind, and Spirit in each treatment plan and point. This means that not only will a treatment involve addressing the local pain, but also why one might be grinding and clenching in the first place. Western medicine acknowledges the role that stress plays in this syndrome, and like everything else, There’s A Point For That!