What to know when seeking manual therapy for jaw tension and pain

Update, September 17, 2020: I stopped doing manual therapy in March 2020 due to COVID. I’m resuming my bodywork practice in Austin, Texas, one day a week on Tuesdays starting Sept. 22.

I’ve been spending a lot of my downtime pivoting to teaching people how to relieve their own jaw pain.

I’m teaching a 5-class course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain. The first class is Thursday, Sept. 24. The class will meet on Zoom, opening it up to people far from Austin.

Check out my website, maryannreynolds.com, for details.

So far, since I began doing intraoral work for jaw issues in 2013, I’ve had several clients come in for TMJ relief sessions who had previously seen multiple practitioners who worked inside their mouths to try to relieve their TMJ symptoms.

They had seen chiropractors, chiropractic neurologists, Rolfers, dentists trained by the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), and/or other massage therapists.

These clients told me, “No one has ever touched me there,” after I worked on their lateral pterygoids.

These are small, hard to access muscles, and they are often key muscles to address to release jaw tension. It takes patience to get close to them and gently influence them to soften and lengthen.

You can see in the image below that there are two heads to the lateral pterygoid muscle. The upper head attaches to the disc (not labeled) between the temporal bone and mandible. Tension in this upper head pulling the disc anteriorly may create clicking or popping sounds on opening and/or closing the jaw.

It is important to address this early on to prevent irreparable damage. Even when there is damage to the disc or the ligament behind the joint (also not labeled), manual intraoral therapy can relieve tension.

The medial pterygoids are also major culprits.

anatomy of the jaw muscles

It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. The external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play a role in jaw tension and pain (they can have trigger points and taut bands within the muscle).

I’ve learned through trial and error that one 75-minute session provides relief (sometimes tremendous relief, as in pain-free and a spacious feeling around the TMJs), but it will probably not last. That’s often the issue with bodywork: the soft tissues tend to revert toward their previous tension until we change that strain pattern through timely repetition.

For longer-lasting relief, 5 sessions in 4-6 weeks with support for habit change and self-care homework can retrain the jaw muscles to lengthen and relax.

I don’t work with insurance, but even people living on a budget who are determined to get gentle, lasting TMJ relief have found a way to pay my reasonable rates. To that end, I offer various ways to pay for it (all up front, pay for a single session before deciding to do the 5-series then pay the balance at the second session, or pay session by session). I offer a $50 discount for 5 sessions within 4-6 weeks to encourage people to get the 5 series.

If jaw tension or pain resulting from jaw tension is your major complaint, and you’d like a sense of spaciousness in your TMJs (if you can even imagine how great that would feel), please seek a practitioner that works intraoral on the pterygoid muscles.

Click here to book a free 30-minute consultation. (My practice is in Austin, Texas.)

Things that distinguish my work:

  • I work as gently as possible. Sometimes people feel therapeutic pain, as in “this hurts a little but it’s exactly what I need to relieve this tension”.
  • I never make any sudden moves, and you can signal me to get my hand out of your mouth (and I watch you for signs of discomfort).
  • My sessions start with full body alignment and progress toward the intra-oral work, ending with deeply relaxing craniosacral therapy to help your system integrate the changes.
  • My referral partners include dentists, chiropractors, doctors, a Rolfer, acupuncturists, craniosacral therapists, an Ayurveda practitioner, a Somatic Experience practitioner, and many massage therapists.

I started a Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, for people who want to work on their jaw issues. You can ask questions and learn more there.

I hope this information helps you ask informed questions when choosing a practitioner to relieve your jaw tension and pain. 

MTHFR: my micronutrient testing results

I previously wrote about learning that I have a homozygous (from both parents) mutation in my MTHFR C677T gene, and that I was going to a new doctor who wanted to have my blood tested to see which nutrients were actually getting into my cells.

Why is getting tested for nutrients important for people with this mutation? The mutation, which affects 40-70% of the population, impairs a cellular process called methylation, which can create deficiencies in nutrients. This can affect metabolic processes including cell repair, immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter production, and fat processing and result in serious disease.

Health conditions that can be influenced by nutrient absorption include addiction, miscarriages, birth defects, autism, diabetes, mental illness including anxiety and depression, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, thyroid disease, certain cancers, hypertension, inflammation, migraines, and many more. These health issues are common.

If you could take the right supplements and eat the right foods to recover from or prevent problems, would you do it? I would. When you have your health, life is definitely better. Continue reading

If you have State Farm insurance and are pro-choice, here’s something you should know

State Farm is a supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In fact, State Farm is deeply entwined in this extreme right-wing, pro-corporation, anti-choice, anti-women group, which provided the “model legislation” for the recent spate of anti-abortion bills as well as the “Stand Your Ground” laws as brought to public attention in the Travon Martin shooting tragedy.

According to Sourcewatch, which lists corporate supporters of ALEC (as well as corporations that have cut ties to ALEC), State Farm is not “just” a member but is extremely active in supporting ALEC’s radical, anti-consumer agenda.

I don’t want to change insurance companies. I’d like for State Farm to cut its ties with ALEC. I simply will not be handing over a hundred-plus dollars per month for car insurance to a company that supports ALEC.

The non-ALEC alternatives are Progressive Insurance and All-State. (GEICO is an ALEC member.)

Note: A Facebook friend recommended Texas State Low Cost Insurance, a brokerage that I’m also checking out. They provide homeowner insurance as well as auto coverage.

If you’d like to let State Farm hear your opinion about their political activities, you can go here to leave your comment.

Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve been a State Farm customer since 2000, and I live in Texas. I was very, very disappointed to find out that State Farm is a supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is writing anti-choice, anti-women legislation being enacted legislatures in several states, including Texas. I’m strongly considering changing companies.

A bunch of comments like that may change their tune. Let’s put the chill on the ALEC members whose products and services we use! We have a choice too. If they can influence legislation, we consumers can vote with our dollars as well as vote non-ALEC supporting politicians into office. (Did I mention I can now register voters?)

Also, just reminding y’all that the smartphone app/website Buycott has campaigns you can join that allow you to scan items with your phone that you’re about to buy to find out if they’re made by an ALEC supporter.