We use our mouth for our entire life to take food in, talk and express our feelings (or hold them in) so it would seem logical that the hinge joint of our jaw is designed to last us a lifetime. Keeping this joint in good health and operating painlessly and efficiently is a good idea. When we are tense we often tighten our jaw muscles and clench our teeth. For some of us, over the years, we tend to chew our food on one side of the mouth more than the other. This can lead to an imbalance in the tension levels of the muscles that help us chew our food. The joint connecting the jaw bone (mandible) to the skull bone (temporal bone), known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is used extensively when we talk and eat. If you experience pain or limited movement in this joint your enjoyment of these everyday activities is affected.
There are four sets of muscles to address with massage that can restore proper mobility to the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ). On the outside of the face and skull are the masseter and temporalis muscles. Trigger points in the masseter muscle can refer pain into the joint, the upper or lower molars (teeth) and into the ear. Two muscles are located in the oral cavity attaching the sphenoid bone to the jaw bone (mandible) and to a cartilage pad found in the TMJ between the mandible and temporal bone. The lateral pterygoid muscle also can have trigger points that refer into the sinuses and cause sinus headaches and sinus congestion.
To massage the external muscles, with your mouth closed, use your finger tips and trace along the lower edge of the cheek bone and the outer surface of the side of the jaw to address the masseter. To massage the temporalis muscle use your fingertips to trace around the ear and along the side of the head.
To massage the internal muscles, roll you fingers under the angle of the mandible (jaw) to address portions of the medial pterygoid muscle. To address the lateral pterygoid muscle, slide your finger along the upper teeth and past the last of the upper molars(or where the upper molar should be if they have been removed). Gently press toward the outer surface of the mouth, into the soft tissue of the muscle as it attaches near the joint. Open and close your jaw slightly to feel the muscle contracting.
More thorough information, illustrations and instruction is available in our e-book on Balancing Jaw Function and the instructional DVD on Self-Massage of the Neck and Face.
The Spiral Synergy approach places the jaw into comfortable positions and provides stimulation to the muscle, joint and tendon reflexes. Once stimulated, these nervous system reflexes can change the tension levels in the muscles that act on the TMJ which results in freer, more comfortable movement. These techniques are easy to learn and apply. It only takes a few minutes to perform them and the benefits can last hours or days.
Specific instructions and additional information are provided in our e-book on Balancing Jaw Function.
We have found that essential oils can help with the emotional component of TMJ pain especially if grinding the teeth (bruxism) is involved. The essential oil blends of Peace and Calming; RutaVaLa; Tranquil; and Stress Away can calm the emotions and promote relaxation and sleep. The single essential oils of Valerian, Roman chamomile and and lavender have traditionally been used to promote relaxation and calming. The oil blends of Release and Trauma Life can access verbal trauma related patterns.
For inflamed TMJ tissues applying the essential oils of lavender; copaiba, PanAway, Deep Relief or Relieve It (among others) can help with pain and inflammation. Make sure to apply the oils in accordance with the instructions on the bottles. For more information on the use of essential oils watch our recorded presentation and other posts on this website.