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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

TMJ...we all have it

Katie Gordon

Let's talk about I mean jaw tension.  Recently, clients and students have been coming to me with one main issue...jaw tension and all the resulting symptoms that come along with it: headache, migraine, neck pain, herniated discs, even tight hips can be a result of a tight jaw.  Pelvic tension?  Not so fun.  When so many come to me with a specific complaint, I have to wonder what's up.  What is the Universe trying to tell me?  And then I remember.  I have jaw tension too.  As does most of the population. Let's go over some basics.  TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint.  We all have one (two, actually).  When all is going well, the many muscles and tendons of the jaw work harmoniously allowing us to eat, talk, bite, yell, kiss, and otherwise express ourselves.  When all is NOT going well, we end up TMJD (TMJ dysfunction) and we clench or grind our teeth, get gnarly headaches, achy necks, and other unpleasant symptoms.  So what can we do?

In some instances, jaw tension stems from energetic blockages, possibly resulting from unexpressed emotions, past trauma that's been wound up and stored in the body, or not speaking our truth.  In this case, it might be helpful to ask yourself, "What is it that I'm not saying?  What needs to be said?"

TMJD could also be caused by general stress that we experience in everyday, modern life.  In terms of our evolutionary response to stress, our fight-or-flight response is meant to kick in when we're being chased by a lion, not when we're stuck in traffic and late to work.  That constant-on wreaks havoc on our TMJ, neck, shoulders, cranial bones, etc.  When this happens it may be time to see a bodyworker (psst...that's me) to help unwind that tension.

A good bodyworker is highly trained in sensitive touch and the ability to read and listen to the client's body.  They'll know how to assess a client's body and symptoms, what kind of pressure and how much to use, and what may be contraindicated in certain situations.

Through skilled and sensitive touch, a bodyworker can figure out which specific muscles and attachments are tight and work to release them.  They will also know what may need to be released before the "problem area" can be directly addressed.  For example, sometimes the pterygoids (tiny, vicious muscles deep in the TMJ) are tight because the piriformis (a large, vicious muscle deep in the hip) is tight.  In order to release the jaw, you may need to release the hips.

So if you're experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, or are just curious about bodywork and what it can do for you, I'm here to help!