Can Massage Therapy Help TMJ?
Do your jaw, and surrounding areas feel stiff and awkward at times? Are you experiencing pain around the jaw, neck, or face? If the answer to these unfortunate questions for you is yes, then you might be suffering from a condition called a temporomandibular joint disorder.
That surely is a mouthful to say. In short, the temporomandibular joint disorder can be abbreviated to TMJ disorder or syndrome, which is a condition that affects many people every year. Having this ailment can be an uncomfortable and even painful experience, so treatment should be sought as early as possible.
One way of treating TMJ syndrome is massage therapy, which in some cases can be really beneficial in managing pain and relaxing the affected tissues. But before we learn about how massage therapy can be used for treating this condition, let us first familiarize ourselves with what it entails.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
There are multiple types of temporomandibular disorders, but TMJ specifically refers to the joint that connects the skull and jaw. In this disorder, the muscles around the jaw supporting the joint start to hurt, making simple tasks like eating or yawning painful.
This could be due to overworking the muscles, after which they become fatigued, and may even inflame, e.g., for people who chew gum a lot, they might experience these symptoms. Your jaw may also feel tender due to the pain, and you may also experience pain around your ear and in surrounding facial tissues.
Yet another symptom of this condition is commonly known today as “lockjaw,” in which opening up your mouth beyond a certain capacity will cause a lot of discomforts. Similarly, people with this ailment might also have difficulty chewing their food.
Causes And Symptoms Of TMJ Syndrome
There can be a variety of reasons why someone develops TMJ syndrome. For example, as already stated, overworked muscles tend to seize up and become stiff as fatigue and tension set in. Another cause could be the habitual grinding of teeth or clenching the jaw.
Other causes include arthritis and sustaining trauma to the face, which may rupture the tissues or put too much pressure on the joint. More recent research into this condition tells us that certain clinical, psychological, and even genetic predispositions might make someone more likely to develop TMJ disorder.
There are a number of symptoms of this disorder, so if you are experiencing at least a few of the following, you should ideally visit the nearest doctor and have yourself checked.
- Pain or ringing in the ear(s) that is not caused by an infection in the ear canal,
- A popping or clicking sensation in the jaw when moved,
- Spreading of pain behind eyes, in the face, neck, and even in the shoulders,
- Frequent headaches and experiencing dizziness,
- Soreness or discomfort in the jaw – which is mostly experienced during daylight hours,
- Lockjaw, and hence restricted movements of the mouth,
- Tingling or numbness in fingers,
- Tooth sensitivity, despite there being no oral health issues,
- Frequent grinding or clenching of the teeth
These are some of the most common symptoms of having TMJ syndrome but are not the only ones. As seen from the symptoms described above, having to live with TMJ syndrome can be quite difficult. If left untreated, the symptoms are likely to worsen, which will make treatment more challenging.
If the disorder is more severe, you may not benefit from massage therapy, in which case you will need to consult a doctor who can advise the proper treatment. Your doctor will take your age, medical history, overall health, and response to medicines into account.
Additionally, doctors may also ask your preferred method of treatment depending on how many avenues can be taken to address your issue. Nonetheless, it is imperative that you consult a doctor for their expert opinion.
How Massage Therapy Can Treat TMJ Disorder
Massage therapy is widely used to help alleviate symptoms of this ailment, provided that your doctor has not advised against it. A survey conducted of around 200 people diagnosed with TMJ syndrome found that out of all the complementary and alternative medicine treatments, massage therapy was the most commonly opted for and also the most effective, as reported by the interviewees.
Another survey conducted in 2007 of 126 people with TMJ disorder also found that massage therapy was rated as the most effective aid to reducing and even relieving pain experienced in this ailment. More evidence from the research also suggests that massage therapy has helped improve jaw movement, reduce pain and clicking of the joint.
There are many different types and techniques of massages that can be used for this purpose. These include the following in addition to other forms of treatment:
- Trigger Point Massage: In this style of massage therapy, the therapist will begin by applying very little pressure onto the tissues surrounding the source of pain and then gently massage over the affected area to relax the tensed-up muscles. Kneading motions are commonly used for this purpose, among other techniques.
- Friction Massage: For this style to work, the therapist will begin by identifying the masseter muscle, which is found along the jawline. Here, they will then apply pressure gently but at a constant pace using one or two fingers, as needed. It might take a few tries for them to locate the spot, for which it is important that you communicate how your jaw feels as they move forward.
- Stretching Massage: This style of massage allows for the affected muscles to exercise themselves after they have been warmed up with a trigger point or a friction massage. The therapist will begin by placing their thumbs on the mandible muscles and then press them while they move the thumbs forwards and backward along the jawline. This motion should stretch the muscles away from the upper jaw.
The exciting part about these massages is that with a little bit of practice and care, you can even administer them to yourself or even your partners. The good news is that there are quite a few helpful and reliable guides on the internet that can help you do this responsibly.
In addition to massages, there are also jaw exercises that you can perform as a supplement to the at-home treatment of mild discomfort of the jaw and surrounding tissues. These include chin tucks, side to side, and front to front movements, among a few others.
However, we only recommend you do this if your condition is not too severe. Should you experience any discomfort while giving yourself a massage or while exercising your jaw, stop what you are doing and see a professional. Otherwise, you may risk doing further damage to your joint and surrounding tissues.
If you are in search of professional advice from massage therapists or wish to book an appointment after your doctor’s approval, visit Body of Beverly Hills Wellness for the best care in the area. You may learn more about our services and expertise at our website here: https://www.bodyofbeverlyhillswellness.com/, or call us directly at 310-652-2099 should you require assistance urgently.
We at Body of Beverly Hills Wellness take special care to provide massage therapy in responsible and safe ways while ensuring that our clients experience no discomfort while in our care. So, call in and book an appointment at the earliest!