Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TMJ - Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

TMJ is when the joints that allow us to chew, talk or yawn become misaligned. Anytime any joint anywhere in your body is not where it is supposed to be, it can cause many problems with pain.  Some of the common reasons for TMJ are oral surgery, teeth grinding and playing a wind musical instrument that requires biting down such as reed instruments.  However, any trauma to our body, no matter where it is, can affect us in other areas of our body, making finding a cause tricky.  Did you know that if your hips are out of alignment, that can effect the other joints in your body as well?  Think about it.  The hips are your core.  If you have ever fallen down hard, had any accidents, had any babies, etc., this is one thing to keep in mind.  Think of core and hips as a foundation to a house.  If you do not have proper foundation for your house, how will the rest of the house be supported?  It's a lucky thing for us that our bodies are more adaptable than a house that would fall apart and crumble to the ground. The fact that our bodies are made to adapt is where chronic pain can come in.  If our bodies weren't able to adapt, then we would be unable to move after the slightest little injury.  Our bodies adapt by going out of alignment instead of crumbling to the ground.  Check out someone with scoliosis sometime in order to get a visual of what that means.  The spine is crooked, so the head is off to one side, while the hips are off to the other side.  The person adapts by bringing their head back to the center in order to be able to look forward.  But at what cost to their neck in order to be able to look forward?  The muscles and joints have to adapt to a new position somehow.  They are usually still able to walk by adapting to one leg shorter than the other at the risk of hip and back pain, but they are still able to move.

Some natural treatment options for TMJ can include massage and craniosacral therapy.  Both address posture if the problem is coming from the hips like I mentioned earlier, but they also address the problem at the site of the TMJ.  Massage can be used to manually correct any postural problem that is caused by tight soft tissue.  It can also be used inside the mouth in order to release tight tissue that can be impinging the nerves and bringing the jaw out of alignment.  Ohio law requires written permission from a physician, dentist or chiropractor in order for a massage therapist to work out the muscles that are inside the mouth.  Craniosacral therapy helps the body to self correct on its own with the use of very gentle pressure no heavier than the weight of a nickel.  It can sometimes help the bones and joints to reset into proper alignment on their own.  Craniosacral therapy can help to realign the cranial bones (the skull bones) from both the head and inside the mouth.  

Monday, September 9, 2013


Inflammation can be our friend when an injury first occurs.  It's our body's response to aid in healing.  When something is hurt, it is supposed to be nurtured back to health before returning to normal activities.  One of the many reasons for unexplained pain is when the inflammation is still there long after the injury has had time to heal.  If the injury is repetitive stress in nature, then the injury can return when we go back to our normal activities.  So, what's it going to be?  Do something, or never return to your normal activities again?  I learned the hard way long before becoming a massage therapist that not returning to normal activity does not get rid of the pain.  When what's wrong isn't fixed, I still hurt A LOT!  So, I am going to talk about natural ways of helping the inflammation process along in a way that decreases pain.  The answer is cold.  It sounds more simple than it really is since there are correct and incorrect ways to use cold.  If you're not careful, you can cause permanent tissue damage, same as with heat.  If you use a cold pack or ice, when the area starts to feel numb is when you remove it.  You can go back to putting it back on later on, but never too long at once.  If any of you have had your wisdom teeth removed, your doctor may have given 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off instructions or something similar.  Heat dilates the blood vessels and cold constricts them.  When cold is left on too long, it actually dilates them instead.  This can cause tissue damage!  The combo of heat and cold actually helps to flush out the pain causing toxins.  If you have ever heard of a contrast bath, that where you have 2 tubs of water, one as hot as you can stand it and one as cold as you can stand it.  You alternate 1 minute cold and 3 minutes hot and keep alternating back and forth for 20-30 minutes.  After a while, you'll feel an effect that feels like tingling.   You can do the same thing with your shower water if an area is too big for small tubs, or if you're lazy like me :)  Heat should never be used on a brand new injury, not even a contrast bath or shower.  Another trick I like to use is running my hands and forearms under cold running water for about 30 seconds to a minute, or until numb, about 2-3 times a day.  Between being a massage therapist and a musician, this really helps me a lot.  I also have topical analgesics that I put on just before bed.  Do not combine topical analgesics with heat or cold, only one or the other.  I use essential oils that double as topical analgesics such as wintergreen and peppermint since they are more natural.  Wintergreen needs to be used with caution since it has the same properties as aspirin.  Peppermint needs to be used with caution since it raises blood pressure.  This helps with inflammation, but does not substitute the need for soft tissue therapy.   Many of us need both.

Disclaimer: Christine Baker, LMT is not responsible for injuries inured from the use the contents in this post.  This is for information purposes only and does not substitute medical care.