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A Massage Approach to TMJ Pain

A licensed massage therapist working on a client

Chances are, you found yourself here because either you, or someone you know, is experiencing discomfort, pain, headaches, muscle tension, and possibly even popping of joints from TMJ Disorder. The Mayo Clinic describes TMJ as the moving or sliding or the temporomandibular joint (connects your jaw to your skull) caused by any number of factors. TMJ Disorder may be genetic, caused by an injury, arthritis, or from a history of bruxism (teeth grinding and/or clenching). Treatments for TMJ can vary as widely as the symptoms it manifests.

After being in this field for a long time, I have had clients tell me they have tried a variety of treatments such as expensive mouth guards, massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, botox, surgery, and more. How do you determine which treatment is right for you? That is a great question, given there are many ways to approach treating TMJ. In my practice, I approach my TMJ clients with a whole treatment that encompasses face, scalp, neck, and shoulder work. I rely heavily on Myofascial Release to help warm and stretch the fascia in the face, head, and neck. Clients love this sensation because they can feel the effectiveness of the work, allowing more movement, decreased pain sensations, eliminating headaches, and increasing range of motion for rotation of the neck. I will also incorporate elements of Swedish (relaxation) massage, and Trigger Point therapy to address the spots of tension contributing to the overall discomfort and immobility some people experience.

If you really want a comprehensive approach for a case that impedes your quality of life, I would recommend treatment that would look like massage therapy, physical therapy - possibly even Myofunctional therapy for TMJ, and dry needling. Experts agree that a mouth guard is the most effective. However, these are not always a viable option, as they are expensive devices that most insurance providers will not cover, and people still experience discomfort for the mere fact they clench their jaws in their sleep or throughout the day.

If you feel like my approach would be a good start for you, schedule yourself a session and allow me to help you on your journey to a better quality of life. Typically, an hour session is a perfect amount of time to address all the offending areas without feeling rushed. I hope to see you soon!

- Jenny Cheek, LMT

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