CHARLOTTE – What is TMJ? TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint and is the hinge that connects the mandible (jaw) to your temporal bone (skull). This allows your jaw to move (talking, chewing, protruding, etc.). When you have a problem with this area, it’s called a temporomandibular disorder (or TMD).
What are some common disorders with the TMJ? Jaw pain, especially when chewing, jaw clenching, ear pain or ringing in the ears, headaches, or difficulty opening and closing your jaw, which used to be called lockjaw.
How does this pain start? There are a variety of reasons but the most common seems to be: clenching the jaw at night; overuse, weak or tight muscles. Most commonly it’s the masseter muscle and the pterygoid muscle or even the temporalis.
How can massage help? Ask your therapist what she can do. Most of the TM disorders, if caught early can have immediate results. Your therapist will manipulate the muscle fibers that are attached to your jaw. Trigger Point Therapy (massage/pressure that’s applied to the trigger points or “knots” in the muscle) can be highly useful in these areas. As a massage therapist, I find that working the entire head and jaw makes a big difference in releasing the jaw muscles and helping them realign. Once the jaw muscles recover other issues might come to the forefront. There’s often more musculature involved that can make a difference in how your head, neck, and shoulders feel.
TMD responds well with manual therapy so talk to your therapist.
-Lisa Lane is a licensed massage therapist and has owned her own practice, Massage Sanctuary for 8 years. Contact her at (704) 773-6863 (call or text).