TMJ Pain... Let's talk about it

Time for some jaw-dropping material, folks. If you’ve ever had jaw pain, neck pain or shoulder pain, you’re going to want to take a big bite out of this one. We’re going to talk about TMJ disorder. So common in individuals that it affects more than 3 million a year.

For starters, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the most used joint in the human body. Whether you are gabbing away at the water cooler, masticating your meal or grinding down to your gum-line, the TMJ is likely one of the most devoted departments to your corporal corporation. Let’s break it on down.

“temporo” = the temporal bone in your skull. “mandibular” = the mandible, or jaw. “joint” = the moving part where two parts work together.

This joint is referred to as a sliding “hinge” joint – much like how most doors operate. It has two directions – to open (depress the jaw) and to close.

Location: Trace the line of your jaw until you run into your ear lobe. Bring your sensors to the front and upwards (towards the top of your head) about a thumb’s width. The best way to put this joint in your crosshairs is to bite down and/or depress your jaw. Where the moving bits meet the non-moving bit is where you want to be.

What contributes to TMJ pain?

It’s more common that you’d think to associate TMJ disorder with neck and shoulder pain. When the head is pushed forward (or protracted) by one inch, the pull of the neck muscles are working as if you had added 10 pounds to it. Because it would be unnatural (and socially unacceptable) to walk with our heads forward without keeping our eyes level to the horizon, we tend to push our head forward AND look slightly upward.

Exercise:

Check your posture as you read this article. Notice if you are jutting your head forward to get closer to the screen and, if you are, draw attention to the upper cervical muscles behind your head. Now, if they seem taught to you, as if someone was using them as tension wire for a balancing act, try to let them relax by dropping your gaze from the computer down towards your lap.

What does this have to do with the jaw?

Adding cervical tension to neck muscles like the suboccipitals, splenius capitus, and splenius cervicus will contribute to intra-cranial pressure. The muscles attached to C1 and C2 are, often, my first targets when I treat my clients with TMJ disorder for this reason. The same can be said for the pterygoid and other muscles can can produce a clicking or tightness in your jaw.

How is it treated?

Chiropractic adjustments and stretches are preferred - although, sometimes, it might lead to surgery. Seek your local dentist for advice in that area. An effective way to treat jaw pain or TMJ pain is with massage therapy using a clinical approach. If you struggle with jaw pain like this, call or click below to schedule your appointment today.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/basics/definition/con-20043566?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=abstract&utm_content=Temporomandibular-joint-dysfunction&utm_campaign=Knowledge-panel

https://www.uhs.uga.edu/healthtopics/tmj.html

What is myofascial release?

Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/myofascial-release)

The approach here is unique in that the therapist does not actually use oil, lotion, and such other artificial emollients during the treatment (contrast to what you would experience in a Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage). The science behind this is fascinating for some, mind numbing for others, but beneficial for all. (Read more about the “piezoelectric effect” in another post…)

The method of action in myofascial release is maintaining some sort of traction with the tissues and creates an environment that can actually stretch and manipulate the fascia. The results are incredibly more effective than your typical massage at a local franchise and thats why I use it in my Clinical Sports Massage sessions.

When is myofascial release used in massage therapy?

Rolfing, Structural Integration, Active Release Techniques… they all use some form of myofascial release. The philosophies might differ between each of the organizations but each accepts that you cannot have myofascial release when you add lotion. As soon as some sort of lotion is applied, you lose any form of traction or friction with the body and it creates a barrier to treatment. That’s not to say that Swedish Massages aren’t effective, they just aren’t as effective when you have a different goal you are trying to achieve.

What could prevent someone from receiving myofascial release?

Contraindications like open sores, acute trauma and inflammation are universal to bodywork but, in myofascial release, we also have to consider the quality of recipient’s skin. Sometimes, if the body is dehydrated, there may be an uncomfortable stretch felt on the surface (similar to a friction burn) and it is very uncomfortable. Most of the time, this can be remedied by splashing a little bit of water onto the skin but other times, a cautionary amount oil or lotion can be used (being careful not to add too much and risking losing all of the traction).

Who might benefit from myofascial release?

The massage therapy and bodywork community uses a variety of modalities to treat and manage soft tissue pain. Swedish Massage is very effective with calming the nervous system and increasing circulation, deep tissue (sometimes confused with deep “pressure”), Lymphatic Drainage is popular for increasing lymph flow after surgeries… and so on.

Myofascial release would be ideal for athletes or even the general population that struggle with specific pains that Swedish Massage or Deep Tissue Massage fail to resolve. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Back pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen Shoulder (or Adhesive Capsulitis)
  • Injuries due to poor shoulder or hip alignment

Combining myofascial release with cupping, IASTM, Rock Tape (kenisiology taping) and corrective exercises is the best way to get the most out of your massage. If you’re fighting to resolve your pain, a Clinical Sports Massage could be the solution. Call 857.574.0008 or email levi@denvermovementcenter.com for more information or click the link below to book your appointment

Are You “BTF”? (Brand-new To Fitness)

I like to say that the most difficult thing about going to the gym is GETTING to the gym. However, if you’re new to fitness, you could be hit with another challenge… “What do I do when I get there?!?”

With the multitude of tools and equipment around your typical gym, it’s easy to get lost in the ether. In this article, I’m going to give you notes on how to make your time at the gym worthwhile and effective - even if you’re fresh out of the box.

STEP ONE: ”The Warm Up”

This can be done on a treadmill, jump rope, elliptical machine, ergonomic rower (“ERG”), stationary bike or some other form of cardio - about 5 minutes one one of these machines should suffice. The goal is to get your heart rate up and warm up your tissues so they respond better to the next step - stretching and movement preparation.

STEP TWO: “Stretching and Movement Prep”

Here, we can be a little creative because there are a variety of ways to stretch. You’re free to use a static or dynamic stretch (like PNF or ballistic stretching) but I always recommend stretching a little bit of everything and focusing a lot on a just a few muscles. The same as when you go in for a massage - some things need more attention than others. Think of it like the 80/20 rule - “80% of the work should be done by 20% of the workers”. In this case, if you’re focus for the day is on lower body exercises… stretch the quads, glutes, hamstrings, etc. for the majority of the time but be sure to hit the pecs, back, shoulders, and so on as well. Example:

* In a 5 minute stretching session, you can work on the lower body for about 3-4 minutes while stretching the rest of the body for the remaining time (approx. 1-2 minutes)

TOOLS FOR STRETCHING…

Lets take a look the tools at your disposal for making an effective stretch.

* Foam Roller: a foam log used to massage the body by either rolling it over your body while on top of it or laying on it for pressure

* Lacrosse ball: a firm, rubber ball used in sport but may be used to target muscles, like the pecs and low back muscles.

* Note: this may be supplemented by either using a tennis ball or racquet ball for less pressure

* Double lacrosse ball: two lacrosse balls tied together either by manufacture or by use of tape, designed for more control when placing it along the length of a target muscle. By design, this is absolutely ideal for targeting the muscles along the sides of your spine.

* Note: may also be known as a “mobility peanut”

* Strap: This is a firm, cloth strap with a loop at the end for securing apart of your body. Consider this an extension of yourself when you cannot reach part of your body, like your foot when stretching out the hamstrings.

Basic Stretches.jpg

Note that I didn’t mention any SPECIFIC stretches. There are signs and posters at most gyms to give examples for different stretches. There’s no black and white rules to this but a rule of thumb is: “If it feels like a good stretch and doesn’t compromise the body (or increase risk of injury), then it’s a good stretch”. But just in case… To the right is a beginners guide to stretching, complete with transparent complexion and skin-toned tank tops…

For static stretches on specific muscles, hold them up to 2 minutes, breathing deep and attempting greater depth in the stretch as you go.

STEP THREE: “Exercise”

The moment you’ve all been waiting for.

If this is your first time at the gym, stick with machines. I’m a huge proponent of barbells, dumb bells, kettle bells, TRX and olympic rings… but, we need to crawl before we run. The machines are safe, secure and almost fool proof. The smith machine (below) is a lockable barbell put on a track so you can still do barbell work with a safety net.

Every machine should have a crudely drawn figure of a guy using that machine - both in a start position and the end position. The muscle you’re focusing on is usually in a different color to stand out - often the color red. But, also, sometimes maroon, scarlet, carmine and vermillion… You get it. It’s red.

PROGRAM: Getting to your goals

What are your goals? Where do you want to be and by what date? Do you have a goal with a deadline? These factors determine exactly HOW you’re going to exercise. Day one, exercise one… We’re doing 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. That means you will perform 12-15 repetitions of that exercise, rest for up to 1 minute, then repeat that process for a total of 3 sets. You’ll adjust the weight as you progress between sets and exercises in the future. Some fatigue or soreness should be settling in by the 12th repetition and you should be able to complete the last set of each exercise with some difficulty but not compromising form. More on that in another article…

COOLDOWN: Wrapping up your workout

Get back to the stretching and let that blood flow, baby. Often times, you can induce a lot more soreness that you need to after a workout (See: “DOMS”). This can be because of a lack of hydration, poor supplementation, or even because, after all that stress you put on the body, you didn’t give it some TLC. Stretch those muscles again, drink a recovery beverage (BCAAS, some carbs to replenish your storage, protein shake) and maybe throw in a contrast bath to make things interesting.

EXTRA CREDIT: Going above and beyond the call to fitness

To get the most out of your workout, get a deep tissue massage to help loosen the tight muscles that even stretching or foam rolling couldn’t get to. Spend some time in an infrared sauna to boost circulation and increase relief from sore muscles and joint pain or at in a cryotherapy tank to decrease inflammation. Get with a nutritionist to find out what would be the best diet plan would be to get to your goals.

At the end of the day…

You started coming to the gym with a purpose. Spoiler alert: So did everyone else at your gym. Half the time, no one even notices you’re there so don’t worry about what they’re thinking about you or what they’re doing. Whether it’s to improve your general health or look better in a bikini, you’re welcome at the gym. It’s not a place for egos, but a lab to improve your vessel. Cheers to starting your journey, gang. I’m proud of you for taking the most important step in that journey - starting.