Let’s begin by clearing up any confusion…I have TMJ(s), you have TMJ(s). We all have TMJ(s).
TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. This synovial joint is the articulation between the condyle of the mandible and the temporal bone. It acts as a sliding hinge, keeping your jaw connected to your skull. There are tiny little disks that are meant to absorb shock and provide a sound surface for the joint to operate.
When people refer to TMJ, what they often really mean is TMJ syndrome or TMD – temporomandibular dysfunction.
While not everyone who clenches their jaw develops a disorder, it is certainly a symptom. Additionally, pain in the jaw and face, locking of the joint, and tenderness around the ear are other common signs and symptoms.
The TMJ is controlled directly by the following muscles: the temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid, medial pterygoid and buccinator. That being said, as part of the bigger system of the body, it is affected by and affects the neck, shoulders and back.
Common symptoms include grinding of the teeth, clicking, headaches or earaches, eye/neck/shoulder pain.
On a scientific-philosophical note, we move with our emotions and our emotions move us. Every thought pattern has a corresponding physical composition and every physical composition has a corresponding thought pattern. Are you getting the point of the loop systems of the human body? Happiness, anger, sadness, joy all influence our physiological states. Our bodies don’t lie despite our best efforts. We can spout falsehoods about our internal state with words, but our bodies never lie.
Where I’m going with this is that your current level of distress can and will have an output on the body. You might squeeze your fists, clench your teeth, or strain your eyes when you’re upset or anxious. The human organism works on the system that we get better at things we repeatedly do – good or bad. If every time I’m anxious about something coming up in my life that I clench my jaw, then I’ll link that as a go-to thing to do in my brain. I get better at clenching my jaw. Then the more I clench my jaw, the better I get at feeding into anxiety, and so on.
So what’s the approach to relieving TMJ syndrome? There are many, many great approaches…you can get orthodontic devices, soft tissue work, laser therapy, chiropractic work, physical therapy or talk therapy to name a few. Another free, anytime option is using exploratory movement to create more space and invite more joy and relaxation.
The following is a small practice you can use anytime, anywhere to get immediate and lasting relief. It explores moving your tongue, jaw, eyes and head in some creative and non-habitual ways. Again, we can rewire our brain to rewire our body. New loops, new changes, new freedom.
Jaw Freedom Audio Lesson (8 min)