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Jaw Tension

Jaw Pain or Tension? Here’s how we combat it.

Laura Sniper, senior massage therapist at Bodyworks DW, speaks on jaw pain and how we can help!

Laura Sniper

Jaw pain, teeth grinding, and teeth clenching are becoming normal parts of our modern existence. With the 24/7 onslaught of new information, notifications, marketing messages, etc. we rarely get much of a break from the stress of the outside world. When problems we are dealing with or just aware of go unresolved, we "chew" on these issues...all night long. It's a primal fight or flight reaction to stress. Basically we are baring our teeth to it. Prolonged teeth clenching can lead to headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

Unfortunately, while this outdated nervous system programming was probably very useful for fending off bears and other predators, it doesn't do a lick of good against the stress of your Facebook news feed. However, with advanced massage therapy, you can break the cycle of tension and let go of the pain and tension.

Elizabeth Dashiell interviews Senior Massage Therapist Laura Sniper on Jaw Pain & TMJ

Elizabeth: - What kind of pain do you most commonly address in our clientele at Bodyworks DW?

Laura Sniper: One of the most common things we address that I really enjoy treating is jaw pain. A lot of people don’t realize how much jaw tension they hold! In my experience, the work can be very transformative for the client. 

We also see a lot of people who experience neck pain. Most people can say they’ve had neck tension at some point in their lives... And when we carry a lot of neck tension, often times that will spread into jaw tension. Over time, we end up teeth clenching throughout the day and in our sleep. When we ignore jaw pain or tension long-term it can potentially contribute to the development of TMJ disorder.

E: What is TMJ Disorder?

LS: - It’s a disorder in the joint of the jaw (TemporoMandibular Joint). The point of this joint is to help us move and open our mouths. It's located in very close proximity to the first vertebrae of our neck so tension in one almost always means tension in the other.

Here’s what I do when someone comes in expressing this kind of discomfort. First, I look at the client’s posture. I see how much of it seems to be coming from a forward head (commonly known as “text neck”). Is the pain one-sided? Is the client leaning one way more than the other? How much of it is from one jaw joint working harder than the other? I start by correcting those imbalances.

Of course, I’ll always do local work. Often, I work the most immediate muscle of the jaw called the masseter. You can feel this muscle if you place your hand below your cheekbone.

Did you know that there are jaw muscles that can only be worked on from inside your mouth?

LS: A lot of people benefit from an LMT working on the inside of the mouth.

Not everyone is comfortable with that kind of work at first, but...everyone that I work on feels amazing afterwards!

E: What exactly are you doing when you do inner-mouth work?

LS: Well, first, we always wear medical gloves. We make sure we have consent and communicate with the client what’s going on. Second, we work on the pterygoid muscles. They are located in sides of the mouth and are used primarily for chewing. In fact, it’s the muscle we use when we clench. Anyone who clenches their jaw regularly, has had lock-jaw, or has had whiplash or a concussion is prone to holding tension here.

E: Is that muscle sensitive?

LS: The work can feel intense but afterwards people feel transformed. I’ve heard pretty much all my clients talk about feeling more range of motion in the jaw and an open neck. People who suffer from chronic headaches will claim to have less headaches or no headaches at all. Of course, this is only the case when the headache was caused by jaw tension.

In my opinion inner mouth work to relieve jaw tension is really important and often overlooked! It’s most definitely worth the time to get addressed.

E: I agree! I think I need it!!

Looking for some temporary relief? Try using a Gua Sha Tool to relax your jaw and neck muscles in between massage treatments:


Book an Appointment with Laura!

physical therapy meets massage therapy

Doing Physical Therapy? Massage Therapy Can Improve Results!

David Weintraub, LMT and owner of Bodyworks DW, writes about the benefits of supplementing your physical therapy plan with massage therapy treatment.

David Weintraub

7 Reasons why this powerful combination works

Pain sucks. As a massage therapist, I would know. Almost everyone who comes to see me does so because they're in pain!

Most of the time, my clients have such a powerful response to massage therapy they don't need additional therapies. However, that isn't always the case. I always look for clues that indicate I need to refer a client to another practitioner, such as a physical therapist. 

Physical therapy and massage therapy are both powerful methods for treating pain. By focusing on correcting the underlying muscular imbalances that have caused it in the first place. When used together, they can help clients achieve faster and better results.  

There are several reasons why massage therapy is effective for anyone who is already receiving physical therapy.

Here are the top 7:

  1. Providing pain relief, often times after the first session
  2. Increasing range of motion so that the body can move better
  3. Decreasing local inflammation by working above and below the area
  4. Lessening the pain clients may be feeling during or after physical therapy exercises
  5. Decreasing the pain clients may feel post-surgery
  6. Bringing faster results than just physical therapy alone 
  7. Motivating clients to stick to their physical therapy treatment plan

That's the short version of why massage therapy and physical therapy are a powerful combination. If you're interested in a more detailed explanation, read below! 

The Breakdown: 

1) Massage therapy helps by treating short and overused muscles. 

The goal of many physical therapy exercises is to help strengthen any weak muscles that are causing pain symptoms. The goal is that by strengthening weak muscles, the body will move & feel healthier. But that's only half the picture. 

When it comes to muscles, imbalance happens when one muscle is weak and long while another muscle is overused and short. In order to correct this, BOTH of these problems need to be addressed. This means following the exercises provided by a physical therapist teaching clients how to engage and strengthen muscles that are weak. It also means using massage therapy to address the muscles that are chronically overused.

The right massage therapist will focus on releasing these tight muscles as well as lengthening them when they've gotten short. This can help effectively decrease pain while also improving range of motion and helping the nervous system learn how to move better! 

2) Massage therapy will help with physical therapy. 

Studies show that one major obstacle to physical therapy treatment is that many will stop coming in if the exercises are painful to do, or if their pain doesn't decrease right away. (Source: Read this article) Basically, if the work is too hard and painful, people are a lot less likely to do it. Massage therapy can decrease pain often with immediate results, which will help provide motivation to stick to the physical therapist's treatment plan.  

3) Massage therapy can help post-surgery.

Sometimes people will experience new aches and pains after their recovery from a surgery, even while doing physical therapy. This can happen due to a change in the body alignment and how the body moves after the procedure. If clients are already doing regular physical therapy and still experiencing pain post-surgery, I suggest asking a doctor if it’s medically safe to try massage therapy.

For more detailed information on how massage therapy can help post-surgery, please check out this in-depth article: Click Here!

 

In summary, we see that combining physical therapy and massage therapy help clients move better and feel better by working on correcting any muscular imbalances that can be causing or contributing to pain. 

Want to read more about how we work at Bodyworks DW? 

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