Massage Can Treat Jaw Pain? How Massage Therapy Can Treat The TMJ & Why You Should Care

Most people are not aware that massage therapists can help to treat jaw and face pain! This is a shame because many people are walking around unable to fully open their mouth, chew the foods they love, and even yawn! Many people with these issues visit their dentists and get put on a waitlist for surgery. There is other help available, massage therapy can often help to reduce or eliminate the pain and reduced movement completely. Your massage therapist will also work with your dentist, physiotherapist and chiropractor to help alleviate your symptoms, this is how.

First of all what is the TMJ and what are the main problems associated with the TMJ?

The TMJ or temporomandibular joint is the joint where the jaw bone meets the skull. This joint acts like a sliding hinge allowing us to chew, talk, yawn and move our jawUnlike other hinge joints in the body, the ligaments of the TMJ do not hold the jaw bone tightly to the skull, allowing movement in all ranges as opposed to just up and down (open and closed in this case). The TMJ also houses a disc that rests between the jaw and the skull. The placement of this disc is crucial to proper jaw opening and movement. When incorrectly placed it can cause locking or clicking.

What is happening when my jaw clicks?

Jaw clicking is when the condyle of the mandible rolls over the edge of the articular disc during the movement of jaw opening. When it rolls off this edge is makes a snapping sound or a click. There are 4 stages in which the jaw can click and it can happen at 1 or all of the stages and in one or both joints.

TMJ issues do not appear for no reason! Often the dysfunction has appeared after years of strain due to another postural related issue in your body (example- scoliosis). When this happens your body will often develop painful trigger points that can refer pain to the face and cause headaches.

How are my headaches and hearing problems related to my TMJ?

​Ever heard of a trigger point? Trigger points are hyperirritable spots in a muscle that have specific referral patterns dependant on the location of the hyperirritable spot. The muscles of our neck and jaw can develop the trigger points and some of referral patterns are what we commonly associate as a headache. (Not all headaches are caused by trigger points but many can be attributed to them. Any sudden appearance of headaches or sudden increase in intensity should be discussed with your doctor.)

The ear “fuzziness” is much the same. Some people complain of difficulty hearing due to an “underwater” sound or the “feeling of being in an airplane”. When examined by a doctor no infection or problem is visible. As you can see by the images above, certain trigger point referral is into the ear which can cause pain or that “fuzziness” in hearing.

How do you know when to seek treatment for your TMJ?

  • TMJ Dysfunction as diagnosed by a dental professional
  • Excessive clicking with jaw opening
  • Pain with movement or clenching
  • Headaches in the forehead or side of head
  • Inability to open jaw wide, catching of jaw when opening or closing, irregular movement
  • Ear stuffiness, blockage or hearing loss
  • Trauma to the face or neck that has caused pain at the joint

What can massage therapy do to treat the TMJ?

A Massage Therapist trained in TMJ assessment and treatment can help to identify what is the cause of your jaw pain and headaches. After a thorough assessment that includes taking measurements and discussing your history, a treatment plan unique to you is made. Treatment often includes massage to the trigger points in the face muscles. Regular massage to these areas can reduce or eliminate the frequency/intensity of headaches, jaw pain, and even the fuzziness that some people note in their ears.When certain muscles in the neck or jaw are too tight it can contribute to clicking, inability to open the jaw wide, or pulling the jaw to one side. We work on relaxing those muscles, to promote proper range and function. Often we work closely with your physiotherapist and chiropractor to help with these changes. Changing the tonicity of the muscles can ultimately change the appearance of your face as well (this will not drastically alter your appearance but make some structural changes like one eye being lower than the other or your nose pulling to one side).​​
There are a number of techniques used in the treatment of the TMJ/jaw

  • Intra-oral massage
  • Scalp/face/neck massage
  • Mandible traction
  • Acupuncture
  • Trigger point Therapy
  • Vibracussor
  • GTO (Golgi Tendon Organ) release
  • Stretch

Many people are unaware there are treatment options available for the TMJ outside the dental offices. To learn more or to book an appointment  for a TMJ Initial Assessment with Kira Sernoskie, RMT call Choice Health Centre at 902-404-3668 or book an initial assessment online.

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