Why I believe everyone could benefit from intra-oral TMJ massage therapy (yes, even if you DON’T have jaw pain!)
As a disclaimer, it is often important to rule out serious conditions with the help of dental professionals and Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialists before seeking registered massage therapy treatment.
Does the thought of someone reaching inside your mouth make you squirm a little? Have you recently learned that inside the mouth (intra-oral) massage therapy even exists!? I want to start off by saying I totally get it! This type of massage therapy is far from the typical massage poster of a lady lying on her stomach with a flower in her hair and candles all around. But, when you have jaw pain – this type of therapy can be necessary and, more importantly can be extremely beneficial in reducing and preventing pain.
Intra-oral massage therapy for jaw pain
It makes sense. You have jaw pain, you seek to loosen the jaw muscles and therefore reduce your pain. This is totally valid and it totally works. Muscles like the masseter, lateral pterygoid, and medial pterygoid can all be accessed intra-orally. When these muscles are relaxed through massage, the outcome is most often a reduction in pain. But, what if I told you working on these muscles could also help other areas of pain?! Keep reading to find out more!
Intra-oral massage therapy for tension headaches, tooth pain (in the absence of tooth decay), and more!
Believe it or not, intra-oral massage therapy can be helpful for a whole host of complaints. Once more serious conditions are ruled out by dental and ENT professionals we can get to work looking for areas of tension within the jaw muscles that could be causing your headaches, ear pain, and tooth pain. Trigger points (aka. Muscle “knots”) in the jaw muscles can cause pain in other areas of the head and face due to referral pain. This occurs when the area that is painful is not actually the cause of the pain.
For example, you may have pain in one (or a few) upper molars, but have been cleared by your dentist for any form of tooth decay. The temporalis muscle may be at fault since its trigger point referral pattern can cause pain in one or several of the upper molars. It is also common for trigger points in the muscles of the jaw to refer to points all over the head, but particularly in the temple area. Releasing tension the muscles of the jaw could calm the trigger points and stop or lessen the referral pain.
Intra-oral massage therapy for preventative care
We often forget about our jaw. It does so much for us, yet we don’t think about it much – that is until it starts to cause us pain or we are unable to do our daily tasks (eating, talking, etc.) as well. Many of us ignore a minor click, or stiffness and tension upon waking because it doesn’t bother us all of the time…yet!
I encourage you to be sensitive to your jaw’s behavior and to get your jaw assessed even if you are not having constant symptoms. I am happy to do an assessment of how your jaw is moving during any of our treatments together (whether it is a TMJ massage or a therapeutic massage!). Working on healthy jaw habits early on could prevent pain and further dysfunction, such as arthritis of the TMJ (jaw joint).
Victoria Webster, RMT, BSc. (Kin)
Victoria is a Registered Massage Therapist who is passionate about helping people who are living with head, neck, and jaw pain.