Posted by Alicia McCarthy
When clients come to me with neck pain, upper back pain, or frequency of headaches or migraines, I usually try to start the massage with their face. The jaw can be very telling when it comes to alleviating tension in these other areas of the body.
TMJ or the Temporomandibular joints are on either side of the face, and can be felt if you follow your finger from your ear to the tiny depression at the beginning of your jaw line. This joint connects the area at the side of your head to your jaw. Tension in the muscles surrounding this joint can displace it, and prevent it from moving with fluidity. TMJ dysfunction can cause the jaw to click out of place or lock up all together resulting in chronic pain and frustration.
We use our faces all of the time, everyday to express love, laughter, and the occasional grimace (we’re only human). So sufferers of TMJ dysfunction are acutely aware when their condition is flaring up, and making it impossible to eat anything the least bit crunchy. Oftentimes the pain is the most noticeable in the morning. This can happen for a few reasons. Sleeping with your mouth slightly ajar due to stuffy sinuses can cause the muscles surrounding the TMJ to work overtime. Sleeping on your side or on your stomach can have the same result compressing everything around the joint. Another cause is good old-fashioned teeth grinding and jaw clenching which often comes about during a night plagued by nightmares.
Fortunately, there is help! Massage is awesome for treating TMJ dysfunction, and so is acupuncture. Massaging your own face is very helpful and easy, and I’ve had success doing this for myself before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. You simply hold the trigger point around the TMJ even going into your mouth to release those contracting muscles. Alternating hot and cold compresses also relieves the tension. As a bonus, facial massage, when done regularly, can improve the tonicity of the muscles of the face giving you a youthful glow!