TMJ also known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction(also called TMD or TMJD too) is pain and inflammation that occurs when there is damage or injury to the jaw joint. TMJ can be very painful at times depending on what is happening with the joint itself and surrounded muscles.
Pinpointing the exact cause of temporomandibular joint dysfunction can be difficult because there are many reasons a person can be experiencing jaw pain. Below are some common causes of TMJ pain in the jaw.
Common causes of TMJ:
Muscular imbalance-This plays into the causes that are below.
Stress-This can include chronic clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Inflammation-This can be from diet or chronic stress
Injury- Whiplash or other trauma can create scar tissue and tension in the body which can cause a pulling in the jaw joint.
Misalignment- Dental issues can cause misalignment of the teeth and jaw, so can injury.
Underdeveloped muscles- Having muscles in the neck, shoulder, upper back and core be underdeveloped can result in posture in the body that causes pulling on the head and jaw.
Posture- Forward head posture(see graphic below) can cause a good deal of strain on the neck and jaw resulting in TMJ. Also shoulders that are slouching and rolled forward can also cause a pulling on the neck, head and jaw muscles.
Eating on one side of the mouth only-This can cause one side of the jaw muscles to be stronger than the other resulting in jaw muscle imbalance. Gum chewing is in including in this.
How Massage And Bodywork Helps
In general it helps relieve tension in the fascia and muscles and this can help relief pain and soreness in the jaw.
Here are some other ways that massage/bodywork help jaw pain and inflammation:
Releasing muscular tension- There are different types of massage/bodywork that can relieve tension. It all depends on where the tension is coming from. It could be coming from the jaw muscles, shoulder muscles, back muscles, or fascia.
Helping fascia relax- Myofascial release in the neck, shoulders, chest and arms release to lessen the pull on the head and jaw.
Stretching and lengthening of the muscles- Massage/bodywork stretching can help create length in the muscles of the jaw, neck shoulders, and upper back. This helps create less pull on the jaw muscles.
Releasing scar tissue- Scar tissue can create a pulling in muscles and fascia. Massage helps scar tissue release helps with over all relaxation of muscles and fascia.
Provide stress relief- Massage and bodywork can help a person's stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest part of the body and where healing happens.
Other Self Care Practices That Help With TMJ Jaw Pain
Massage and bodywork for TMJ can help with pain and inflammation from TMJ. However many times a person needs to be getting more than just professional massage and bodywork. It is important to practice other self care to help the TMJ jaw pain and inflammation.
Other self care practices that can help with TMJ pain:
Self massage for the jaw and neck-The jaw muscle is an easy muscle to self massage and self massage on the neck muscles can help too.
Self relaxation and stress relieving practices like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi-Basically anything that can be done at home that helps with your stress reduction and relaxation. This can also include listening to relaxing music.
Neck, shoulder, upper back and core exercises-Exercises to strengthen the body
helps in correct posture which creates less strain on the neck, head and jaw.
TMJ pain can be frustrating at times however there are things that can be done to help with the pain and tension. As I said, sometimes it takes a little more work than just massage and bodywork to help. The body is amazing and a person can benefit from a well rounded approach to helping the TMJ pain.