New pillow recommendation

This may be a new concept for some of you, but we have posture 24/7, including when we sleep. Our bodies shape themselves to how we use them. Spending 1/3 of your life with a bad pillow is an invitation for neck pain, possibly headaches, and exacerbated jaw pain.

My profession is bodywork, and I specialize in craniosacral therapy and TMJ Relief. I’m interested in the quality of life of my clients and my readers, and that includes quality of sleep, posture, range of motion, habit change, breathing, awareness, deep relaxation…and so much more.

In the past I’ve recommended the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow often. Nearly every person with jaw issues also has neck issues, so inquiring about sleep posture and pillows is part of my evaluation, and treating the neck is part of nearly every TMJ Relief session.

The Therapeutica pillow is what I’ve used myself for years, and I never have neck pain. It comes in 5 sizes — you measure the width of your shoulder to get the right height for side sleeping. It also supports the curve in the neck for back sleeping.

I’m still recommending it, and there’s another option now as well. Yes, it is more expensive than the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, but it has some qualities you may appreciate.

A client recently shared with me that she’s discovered a pillow that she just loves. She has neck, head, and jaw issues. I looked it up, and it has much going for it. It’s the Turiya Organic Latex Pillow.

It’s made of natural latex and is mold and mildew resistant. The cover is made of organic cotton. The pillow is described as “medium firm”.

The top is for side sleeping, and the bottom is for back sleeping. The ear indentations are great for side sleepers with lots of ear piercings.

The average review is 4.2 stars. I haven’t tried it myself, but my client just loves it, and she’s a savvy woman…with neck, head, and jaw issues.

It’s $118, and you can buy it in 4 interest-free installments. If you buy one, you get 15% off a second one. You can try it for 30 days (which they recommend because it may take some getting used to). It comes with a 365 day guarantee, and returns are free.

It is 5 inches high, so if your shoulders are wider than that, you can put a folded towel under it for added height.

If your shoulders are narrower than that, please don’t get this pillow! Try the Therapeutica instead.

The Therapeutica pillow comes in 5 sizes, doesn’t have ear indentations, uses one side for both side and back sleeping, costs about $80 for the average size, is firm, and comes with a 5-year guarantee that it will hold its shape. It does not have ear indentations, but it does have “valleys” to minimize pressure on the jaw for side-sleepers.

It is non-allergenic and has a 90-day return policy.

If you have a favorite pillow or have tried either of these, I’m interested in your experience.

After the Texas freezepocalypse…

I’m working in my office one day per week (Tuesdays) and have since September. I took 6 months off because of COVID, and it’s almost 6 months since I’ve been back.

Working one day a week means that my workday is full with no gaps between appointments. This is time-efficient for me since I have a 30-minute commute each way (barring rush hour, which can take 20 minutes longer).

Although I optimize my road time by listening to relaxing music or audiobooks or podcasts, honestly, I’d rather not be in the car that much.

I’ve had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine with the second scheduled for later this month. My system should reach maximum COVID immunity on April 7, and at that time I will add another day in my office, Wednesdays. I’ll continue to add days as my time in the office fills up.

I’m seeing a lot of people coming in for craniosacral therapy. It’s so good for stress, and the pandemic and recession and political insanity have taken their tolls. You may have heard something about the polar vortex reaching Texas in mid-February, creating what’s being called “snowmageddon” and “freezepocalypse” because of the electrical grid nearly going down.

There was a lot of uncertainty with that. Even for those who came through it with little discomfort (including me), no one knew if they would lose power or how long it would be out, or if their pipes would freeze or burst, or if they would have food and water.

Temps got down to 4-8 degrees F in this area and stayed below freezing for 4-5 days. Usually if our winter temps go below freezing, it gets down to maybe 28 for a few hours. So homes aren’t built for cold. We have no snow plows. We sand icy bridges, and businesses and schools and offices close, and that’s it. “Snow day”.

So…lots of stress means lots of clients for me. I’m offering a discount now, which helps make craniosacral therapy affordable for more people. And we’re still taking full COVID precautions. And because of the downtime, I’ve been able to study in more depth both Upledger and biodynamics styles of CST.

I spent 8 days with my family during the freeze, and it was wonderful, 5 of us under the same roof, cooking, watching WandaVision (which I liked although Avengers fans had to explain the backstory to me), Servant (which I didn’t enjoy), enjoying each other’s company. One member has 4WD but not much was open. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs. Laughter.

I did miss the silence of my solitary abode, where birdsong is the soundtrack, but I was out of propane to cook with, and it was cold. My pipes froze but didn’t burst, and my electric bill will probably be enormous.

And now it’s spring, just like that, with highs ranging from 60 to 80.

We’re taking stock of the freeze damage to the plants. My Meyer lemon tree is probably a goner but I’m going to wait before doing any cutting. My spinach, collards, parsley, cilantro, carrots, onions, lettuce, and fennel made it through with frost damage, but chard and beets, snap peas, fenugreek didn’t.

The live oaks look bad but will probably recover. Palm trees, agaves, cacti, nope.

I’m doing a lot of MELT method sessions to help my body recover from a low back injury last fall when I tried to lift too much. Because some yoga poses were prohibited, I decided to give up yoga classes and to do MELT at home this year. It’s so good at helping the body to release compensatory tension patterns from injury and lack of use (being sedentary or workouts that don’t work the whole body).

I have a way to go but the pain is much less and my range of motion in all my joints has improved a lot.

Although the governor of Texas has declared Texas 100% open for business and ended the mask requirement, all the major grocery and superstores are requiring them, although how good enforcement (which usually falls to low-paid but somehow essential workers) will be remains to be seen.

Texas is something like 47th among states in getting its population vaccinated, and Houston is the only city in the nation with all 5 variants of COVID.

What? What was he thinking? Diversion from the near-crash of the electric grid and dozens of deaths and billions in damages resulting from that? Because of policies recommended during past less-serious strains on the grid but never enacted, to keep Texas attractive (cheap) to businesses? Because he appointed the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT (whose board is mainly people he appointed)? Because most of the cities in Texas are Democratic — although GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression are what keeps them in power? To slap President Biden in the face after he quickly released FEMA funds to the state (in the minimal amount Abbott requested) with no questions asked?

I’m pretty sure only Republicans will be attending mask-burning parties, before they are even vaccinated. I’m pretty sure that businesses who thought Texas was a good place to do business are having second thoughts.

Time will tell, but this extreme partisanship and lack of sensible governing could sure tilt Texas blue again. I’m ready for it.

MELTing and staying hydrated to reduce pain

I posted this on my business website’s blog and then thought my wider readership on this blog (more about wellness in general) might be interested too.

Some of you have been following my posts about the work I did to recover from a sacroiliac joint injury and may find this of value.

Shall we all become as pain-free as we can?

Sacroiliac joint pain returned after 3 years. Now what?

Nearly 3 years ago, I posted that my SI joint was healed. This injury was from a 1996 car wreck. I finally got the right help years later from a physical therapist who evaluated my pelvic alignment and said it was out of symmetry every way possible — tilted sideways, tilted forward, rotated more on one side than the other.

She put a Core Wrap (stretchy fabric with Velcro on the end) around my pelvis, pulling the bones together, and voila, instant stability.

None of the 3 chiropractors I’d seen, for more than a year each, had even suggested that. I’m sure not every chiropractor is like this, but it seemed to me that they wanted to keep treating me forever without fixing the problem, just providing a little relief.

If they understood that stretched out ligaments need bracing to shorten, they never let on. I had to go to massage school and take advanced classes to learn that. Rah for PTs!

I stopped wearing the Core Wrap in Dec. 2016 after 18 months of wearing it pretty much 24/7 because my pelvis finally felt stable without it. I could go for long walks, even hiking in the mountains, without pain.

The alignment still wasn’t perfect but the ligaments had tightened up from wearing the Core Wrap and I wasn’t in pain. I was able to resume doing a full yoga practice, complete with lunges and twists, backbends and splits, joyfully meeting many challenges, developing symmetry and strength, and improving my balance. My alignment improved.

Well………

In October 2020, I was house- and pet-sitting for my daughter and her wife, and I needed to move a 30-pound bag of dog food from the garage to the pantry.

It was too much weight for little old me. (I’m 5’0”.) Even though my arms and upper body are strong, I’m guessing that my pelvis may always be a weaker spot, particularly where L5 and S1 meet. The disc felt compressed. Not herniated, but compressed.

I felt a strain immediately in my low back.

Over the next few weeks, it got worse. I began to wake up with a familiar old discomfort, especially at the left SI joint, and also down the outside of my left leg. My fibula felt out of place, and my knee felt slightly unstable.

It was as if the old asymmetrical tension patterns had returned. The body has memories of the dysfunction as well as the function. My choices move me toward function. I had made a poor choice. (Next time: move the dog food bin to the garage and fill it there.)

Le sigh.

I’d discarded my well-used, stretched-out Core Wraps.

I’m going to try something new. I had some KT Tape stashed away. I went to their website to see how to tape for SI joint stability. It pulls the pelvis together in the back with extra support on the side that is problematic.

So today I’m trying that. The cotton version is supposed to last for 1-3 days. The best thing is that KT Tape doesn’t show under your clothing.

The velcro on the Core Wrap could be irritating to my skin, so I ordered a genuine sacroiliac belt.

I chose the Vriksasana Sacroiliac Belt. It has 4.3 stars from over 4,000 people, the most for any SI belt on Amazon. Their instructions say to wear it for two weeks, including while sleeping. It’s $26.

Vriksasana is tree pose in Sanskrit — one I’ve been working on to develop better balance standing on my left leg. The name is a good omen.

It looks like it would be bulky under clothing, so I will simply wear it outside my yoga pants, which have become my daily uniform. People who are curious enough to ask about it will learn something new that may help them or someone else.

Meanwhile, I am not lifting heavy things and being super careful of sleep posture and in yoga. I danced and did some gardening today, with a lot of attention to not straining anything.

Several people have found my previous posts about my SI joint healing journey because they are searching the web looking for help for their own SI joint issues. They’ve reached out.

This is why I write about it. I am a bodyworker myself, and I am fascinated by the healing journey, especially when it’s not a quick fix. I’ve had several long and meandering ones, and I know that when you find the right information or practitioner or aid, progress can be rapid. I like to help people make progress.

I’ll be back with a report before too long.

Small print: I have an affiliate account with Amazon and may receive a small percentage of sales made through clicking these links.

Self-Help for Jaw Pain class on Zoom

Dentists are seeing more people coming in with cracked teeth during this pandemic. People are clenching and grinding because of stress.

Doing manual therapy in people’s mouths is risky at this time.

Here’s an alternative.

I’m offering an online course on Zoom, teaching people what it takes to create lasting relief from jaw pain. (Sadly, it’s rarely a quick fix — it’s more like changing habits and tension patterns.)

Anyway, if you have jaw pain and would rather not, check it out here: maryannreynolds.com.

You have better things to do than suffer.

Self-Help for Jaw Pain course coming soon

Update: The website is up for this online course: maryannreynolds.com.

~~~

It’s been a while since I posted here.

I am well. Adjusting to these strange times.

I hope you are well and adjusting too.

Current Austin stats: over 22,000 cases, 287 deaths. The number of daily positive cases has declined from over 700 in June to less than half that since late July.

Austin appears to be doing better than other large Texas cities.

I am still not doing bodywork.

That just doesn’t feel safe any more, especially given that more than half the sessions I gave included working inside the mouth.

That’s very risky in these times.

So…I’ve been working on creating an online course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain. It will be a 5-class series offered on Zoom. I hope to get going in September. ]

Courtesy webmd.com.

The coolest thing about the class is that I don’t know that it’s ever been done before: a course that teaches people with pain and tension in their jaws to work on themselves, working inside their own mouths to release tension in the never-touched but overworked internal jaw muscles.

That is often a revelation, based on my experience of having given over 500 TMJ Relief sessions and consultations since 2018. (I started doing intra-oral sessions in 2013 but switched from paper to electronic records in 2018 and haven’t sorted my records from 2013 through 2017.)

The course will also address factors that predispose people to experience jaw pain: strain patterns, stress, and habits such as clenching and grinding.

Changing these habits will keep jaw pain from progressing.

I’ve worked on so many people (who’ve paid way more than this class costs) who have lived with jaw pain for a decade or longer.

This kind of suffering is optional.

Please help spread the word.

The first class will be limited to 8 students and will be offered at a low price, so I can learn and tweak It as needed.

I will post more here when I’m a bit further along in course development.

Anyone with jaw pain who’s interested can also check out my Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction.

Testimonial for a distance healing session

Another review after a distance healing session. This woman was the first recipient I’d never met before. She lives in Indiana and was referred to me by a former client who moved there from the Austin area.

Before this session, I had a strong hunch that the distance apart doesn’t really matter, nor does having met someone in person. This confirmed it.

“I am fairly new to energy work and had been in a good amount of pain when I contacted Mary Ann. Through a distance energy healing session, she guided me through a process of understanding my pain and communicating with it in a way that brought me a lot of relief. She also taught me how to continue using these techniques on my own. Because it was a distance session, Mary Ann and I communicated throughout the process and she brought me into the experience in a way that was extremely empowering!” ~ N.V., 5/6/2020

For more of what people are saying, check out this page on my website.

To schedule a session with me, click here.

Thank you for your interest. 🙏🏽

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

Update, September 17, 2020: I stopped doing intraoral manual therapy in March 2020 due to COVID. I’m resuming my in-person bodywork practice in Austin, Texas, one day a week on Tuesdays. I’m offering TMJ Relief sessions but not working in people’s mouths until COVID no longer poses a threat.

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort pivoting to teaching online. It’s risky to work in people’s mouths, and yet the need is even greater. The stresses of the pandemic and the recession (and all the related adjustments) have people clenching and grinding even more.

I’m offering a course, Self-Care for Jaw Pain, on Zoom. The next series of classes are slated for February 2021.

Check out my website, maryannreynolds.com. If understanding causes and finding remedies for your jaw pain appeals to you, please sign up for my class. Space is limited.

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, sensitive, hard to access muscles, and they may be key muscles to soften to release jaw tension. It takes patience to reach 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 superior head attaches to the articulate disc between the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone and the condole of the mandible. Tension in this superior 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 tissue behind the joint, intraoral manual therapy can relieve tension.

It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. The medial pterygoids are also major internal pain-causing culprits, and the external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play important roles in jaw tension and pain (they can have trigger points and taut bands within the muscle, and also be in a long-term state of contraction due to clenching and grinding).

I’ve learned through trial and error that one 75-minute session provides relief (sometimes tremendous relief, as in experiencing a pain-free and 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 muscle tension 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.

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 intraorally on the pterygoid muscles.

Click here to book a free 30-minute consultation. (My practice is in Austin, Texas, but we can meet on Zoom.)

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.
  • My sessions start with full body alignment and end with deeply relaxing craniosacral therapy to help your system integrate the changes.
  • My referral partners include dentists, chiropractors, doctors, a Rolfer, acupuncturists, craniosacral therapists, Ayurveda practitioner, Somatic Experiencing 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. 

My advanced integrative bodywork practice

I make my living doing advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas. I use four main techniques: craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, Zero Balancing, and orthopedic massage. As standalone treatments or integrated as needed, depending on my clients’ needs and preferences, these techniques can accomplish the following:

  • reduce stress and deepen relaxation
  • release muscle tension
  • reduce pain
  • improve the flow of fluids
  • align your structure and ease your movement
  • free the flow of energy
  • facilitate healing from injuries
  • harmonize your body’s systems
  • strengthen your body’s innate healing abilities
  • deepen your resilience
  • help you feel expanded and confident

Click here to view my business website.

TMJ Relief

Since 2013, I’ve been developing my skills and expertise in offering relief from jaw tension, pain, and dysfunction. I’ve studied with Ryan Hallford, craniosacral therapist and teacher from Southlake, TX, completed multiple craniosacral courses from the Upledger Institute, and studied with John W. Corry of London, Ontario, long-time massage therapist and teacher specializing in jaw and vocal issues.

My intent when working on jaw issues is to create as little discomfort as possible. This means that any pain experienced should only be productive “hurts-so-good” pain. I check in frequently, and my sessions end with deep relaxation. I can also help you start changing the habits that contribute to jaw discomfort.

I offer several ways to be of service to people with jaw issues:

  • You can join my Facebook group, called Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, which offers educational units as well as connection with others working on their jaw issues.
  • You may schedule a free 30-minute consultation so I can learn about your jaw issues, do an evaluation, and discover if we’re a good match for successful treatment.
  • You may alternatively schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer your questions.
  • You may schedule a 75-minute TMJ Relief session, which can be right after the in-office consultation if that time slot is available on my online scheduling program.
  • You may decide to join my TMJ Relief Program, designed to create long-lasting relief by offering 5 sessions in 4-5 weeks, along with education, exercises, supplement recommendations, links to videos, and more. Many patients try one session and then decide to do the program.

You need to be in Austin to receive a session, unless you arrange my travel elsewhere — please call to discuss if interested. The Facebook group is open to people anywhere who are seeking to address their jaw issues. The educational units (click Units on left panel to view) available for the group include teaching relaxed resting mouth position, jaw exercises, self-massage, relaxation techniques, terminology, sleep positioning, and more.

If you’re interested in joining the group, click this link, answer the three questions, and you’re in!

Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog. Now I’m sharing an index of these posts here on my “big blog”.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are the links.

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me. And I believe them!

Since nine times more women than men experience severe, chronic TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are so many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more. I’m working on designing programs to evaluate and treat specific TMJ-related issues. More later!

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.