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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and Massage

Right as Rain has taken special interest in the muscles that are associated with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, most commonly known as TMJ. Both extraoral (outside the mouth) and intraoral (inside the mouth) treatments are used to address these muscles which power the jaw joint. You don't have to have TMJ disorder in order to need this specialized work. If you have headaches, jaw, face, tooth or ear pain that you suspect is coming from clenching the jaw, grinding the teeth, excessive talking, excessive chewing, smoking or extensive dental work, you might benefit from this therapy. Non-latex, professional-grade exam gloves are used for the intraoral work. Additionally, TMJ disorder is frequently misdiagnosed and so is ear pain. Oftentimes, trigger points are the real culprits.

Extensive dental work

Having one's mouth open for a long period of time and the trauma of dental drilling can cause the jaw muscles to ache. Trigger points can form in the lateral pterygoid muscles from the continuous open-mouth position causing pain in the face and head. 

Bruxism (teeth grinding) and clenching of jaw

Clenching and grinding either while awake or sleeping can wreak havoc on the jaw muscles that close the jaw and cause trigger points to form. Massage that targets the jaw muscles can help to relax them, thereby lessening the side effects of these bad habits.

Trigger point referral patterns for jaw muscles  

Headaches due to trigger points in the temporalis muscle are common and can cause referred pain to the temple, eyebrow, behind the eye or in any or all of the upper teeth.  Trigger points in the masseter muscle can refer pain to the eyebrow, cheek, TM joint, ear, jaw and the molar teeth. Trigger points in the lateral pterygoid muscle can refer pain deep into the TM joint itself and to the sinus region. Trigger points in the medial pterygoid muscle can refer a vague ache in the back of the mouth and pharynx, back and below the TM joint and deep in the ear.

If you have TMJ

TMJ refers to problems with the working order of the temporomandibular joint of the jaw which might cause popping, clicking or discomfort. It is usually caused by malocclusion, bruxism, damage to the joint or dislocation. Massage is not a cure for TMJ. Talk to your doctor about surgical and nonsurgical options. However, massage can be useful especially in the early teeth-clenching stages of TMJ by reducing muscle tension and releasing trigger points which may be in addition to the problem.

Emily Hagen BCTMB, CNMT
Board Certified Neuromuscular Therapist

Right as Rain Massage, LLC

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