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.

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Fresh magic and massage

My day today was wonderful, after a long phone chat with a friend last night and also finding and releasing trigger points in my neck. I started today with more freedom of movement than I’ve had in a long time and also had gotten to a pretty good place about something that had been troubling me after talking to my friend, whose friendship and listening skills and point of view I value so much.

I had an outcall massage with one of my favorite clients. I know and trust him, he’s willing to pay my travel fee, and he’s got a table set up in his home, which makes it work. It’s a nice change of pace for me.

I appreciate him very much, too. He asked me if I would do chair massage on his martial arts group last summer after I got my license. I didn’t have a chair or know how, but he paid for my massage chair and let me pay him back in trade. I learned chair massage, and they liked it. I’ll do it again.

He’s given me referrals and bought a package of massages.

He loves outcalls so he can stay relaxed after massage and not have to get in his truck and drive. That is ideal. I firmly believe in enjoying the post-massage state as long as you can!

I’ve worked on him 6 or 7 times now. Today for the first time, I brought music (I’m enamored of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports right now) and released some trigger points that had been bothering him before proceeding with the Swedish massage.

One thing that makes working on him such a pleasure is that he is so responsive. He really relaxes! He may fall into delta (sleep) at times, which I hear from his breathing, and he also spends a lot of the time in deep alpha and theta wave states, relaxed and hypnagogic. He just knows how to get the most out of the experience. When a client goes into these deeply relaxed states, it affects me. I can feel an expansiveness in my energy body as I work.

After I left his house, I went to the Daily Juice Cafe, a favorite eatery of mine. I sat outside on this unbelievable 81 degree January day, soaking up as much sun as I could. Couldn’t find my phone and realized I’d left it at my client’s. After eating, I drove back, knocked, and he opened the door with a big smile, holding my phone, and we had another nice conversation.

Then errands and home, driving with the car windows rolled down!

I read and took a little nap. I started making a lamb curry and needed to make a grocery run for ingredients. Stepped out of my trailer at late dusk and was stunned. The western sky was still glowing pink, and a near-full moon was shining bright white light in the east. The air was almost completely still and alive feeling. The temperature felt perfect.

I felt like I had stepped into a universe full of fresh magic.

Building my massage practice

I have not been posting here quite as often as I used to because I’m working on building my massage practice, which includes not just giving massage (which I enjoy and am good at) but also learning about business matters like marketing, bookkeeping, scheduling, pricing, and so on.

That kind of practical, down-to-earth stuff that doesn’t seem to fit well with the themes of this blog. You’re not here to learn whether to use Quicken or Quickbooks, read about using incentives to attract and retain clients, or sift through research on gift certificate law in Texas, but currently I am a sponge for all that.

I’d love to share some of my lovely experiences! I had fun on Friday morning doing something new: going to each business on the block where my studio is located, introducing myself as a new neighbor, and letting them know I’m available for massage just a short walk away.

My friend Keith came with me. We talked to people at 19 businesses and left a flyer for the bulletin board and business cards at each one. I was glad to have his company.

One of my pet peeves is that I work hard to get stressed people all nice and relaxed, and when their session is over, they get in their car and drive away, which can so easily undo the relaxed state.

I’ve begun suggesting that they enjoy their relaxed state as long as possible, just becoming alert enough to drive themselves safely home.

Even better would be if people could walk to my studio, get a massage, and walk back. Walking anchors the relaxed state more deeply, and the neighborhood is old and lovely, a visual treat.

~~~

I’ll be sending off for my certification in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy today, having done the requisite 20 practice sessions with evaluations. I’ll take the test and get the paperwork in the mail. That feels good. I’m really grateful I can offer this modality.

I’ve just ordered a workbook on trigger points and am looking forward to learning how to work with them. I will be able to make even more of a difference when clients experience muscle pain.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked on some people who are themselves highly experienced bodyworkers, who have shared tips and wisdom with me. I feel immensely grateful for the support.

When I start each session, I like to be still for a moment, connecting my energy to earth and heaven and then connecting to my client’s energy. It feels appropriately responsible when someone has come to me with trust that I can help them feel better. I know it sounds like a cliche, but that moment feels sacred.

Also, all of my clients are really great clients!

Self-care for massage therapists, part 1

I’ve been doing 16-20 hours of massage per week lately, mostly Swedish but also a little deep tissue work. (I’m still getting up to speed on ashiatsu.)

The up side? I burn a lot of calories so I can really dig in at the table (one of life’s sweet pleasures), and I sleep well, being physically fatigued, another sweet by-product. And of course I’m the richer for it, in money, skill, connections, and making a difference.

The down side is that such physical work can take a toll on my body. I understand why a lot of massage therapists get burned out and leave the profession. From my fingers to my spine, I have felt achiness, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, stiffness.

Luckily, I belong to a group on LinkedIn, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). I joined to keep up with discussions about the profession. One person not long ago asked the following question:

What do you do for your hands when they ache after giving a series of massages? I am using proper body mechanics. My hands ache. I appreciate your feedback.

There were 55 responses that I’m going to summarize, because I feel so grateful to have this resource. Thanks to all the MTs who responded.

Please note that many of these are new to me; I am just summarizing what people posted. Later I will post what’s worked for me (that I’ve tried so far) along with a few of my own discoveries.

Recovery time

  • scheduling days off to recover
  • taking a 30 minute break after 3 hours (or however long works for you)
  • taking adequate time between clients to recover
  • not scheduling deep tissue sessions back to back

Body mechanics, stretching, strengthening, and recovery

  • paying attention to how you use your hands on your days off
  • doing hand stretching and strengthening exercises
  • resting in semi-supine position to open the brachial plexus (on your back, knees up, feet flat, book under head for 15-20 minutes)
  • paying even more attention to body mechanics as you work
  • getting a colleague to observe you work and give feedback
  • stretching after each client
  • lifting weights to strengthen arms and hands
  • punching a punching bag (with training)

Therapeutic devices

Heat and cold

  • dipping hands into hot wax/paraffin bath
  • applying hot and cold hydrotherapy
  • dipping hands into ice water

Self-massage

  • getting regular massage yourself
  • stripping your own forearm muscles
  • getting Reflexology on your hands or doing it yourself
  • learning Trager self-care movements for the hands
  • getting myofascial release work done on your arms
  • this page describes how to release wrist trigger points
  • this page describes how to release tennis elbow
  • cupping with suction cups

Delivering massage

  • working within your limitations (i.e., telling clients you don’t do full body deep tissue work)
  • reading the book Save Your Hands!
  • switching to Trager
  • learning Reiki so the energy goes only one way
  • learning Bamboossage, Ashiatsu Oriental bar therapy, or floor Ashiatsu to deliver deep tissue work
  • use alternating areas of the hand/forearm/elbow in moderation
  • having a box of tools available (balls, bamboo sticks, knobbers) to use on clients’  tough spots
  • using Art Riggs’ techniques for deep tissue work
  • using your forearms instead of hands whenever possible
  • using cupping
  • applying hot towels to client
  • holding thumbs tight against hand and using body to push for static pressure point work
  • using the edge of your hand or base of palm area instead of thumbs for sweeping or kneading motions

Oils, herbs, creams, gels, minerals

  • applying essential oil of rosemary for warming or peppermint for cooling (add to jojoba oil)
  • applying oils that are anti-inflammatory: helichrysum, frankincense, German chamomile, Cape chamomile, katrafay, and ginger
  • applying oils that are analgesic: lemongrass, clove, litsea cubeba, peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus citriodora
  • combining anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils; applying them to neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, and feet to relieve hands
  • applying St. John’s wort oil, white willow tincture, fresh turmeric tincture, comfrey fomentation, raw apple cider vinegar fomentation
  • using arnica cream
  • applying Biofreeze
  • applying magnesium oil or gel
  • soaking in an Epsom salt bath
  • soaking your hand in lukewarm or cold water with a minimum amount of salt

Diet, teas, supplements

  • staying hydrated
  • changing your diet to lower inflammation (no details given)
  • drinking coconut water
  • drinking a blueberry smoothie
  • eating cucumbers with sea salt
  • avoiding eating sugars, nightshades, baked products with flour and corn
  • avoiding caffeine
  • taking turmeric internally
  • drinking comfrey tea
  • taking supplements for joint health (no details provided)
  • taking MSM with glucosamine

Renewing my sitting practice, massage self care, oil pulling, and a 21-day challenge: Byron Katie’s The Work

I got away from my meditation practice. For many months.

It always seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, and I still didn’t actually do it more than occasionally. Committing to 20-30 minutes of doing nothing — well, it seemed like I didn’t have time. I had other things to do.

This is after years of meditating and a full year of daily sitting.

Hmmm. The mind plays tricks, takes itself way too seriously, makes excuses, avoids.

I missed it, and when a friend told me she gets out of bed and sits first thing every day, it inspired me to start again.

I was also inspired by the film The Dhamma Brothers, about a program in an Alabama prison where inmates did vipassana meditation, 10 days of silent sitting. It was profound to see peace on the faces of men who had committed terrible crimes.

One inmate said:

I thought my biggest fear was growing old and dying in prison. In truth, my biggest fear was growing old and not knowing myself.

Meditation has always been about facing my self, from the day I started, so tentatively, having realized that nothing else I had tried was taking my suffering away, so I might at least fully face it.

It didn’t take it away, but I quickly understood that my experience was larger than my suffering.

Aren’t we all in prisons of some kind? Fears, mindless behaviors, disconnections, denial, insane beliefs…

I want to know myself. And that in itself is such a koan, I felt inspired to sit with it.

Getting on the computer first thing in the morning is my worst distraction. I seem to have developed an affinity for my laptop, for Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, reading what interests me. Time can get away from me. It’s like an addiction.

So I realized that I need to sit first thing. Actually, I do a couple of sun salutations first. Otherwise, more of my attention goes to my aches and pains when I sit.

Yoga frees my mind to pay more attention to noticing my thoughts and sensing the subtle energies.

Today I experienced this:

Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or ‘mind,’ not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds. ~ David Abram

Tom Best would love that quote. Living inside of awareness. Sweet. I miss him.

~~~

I’ve been giving 15-20 massages a week, and my body is feeling it. I like the honesty of physical work, and I’m learning about remedies like rosemary oil for achy thumbs, trigger points on the forearm, wrist stretches.

Immersing myself in the cold waters of Barton Springs and snorkeling a lap is very, very good for aches and pains. I sleep well.

I’ve also changed up my mouth care routine. I’m brushing with turmeric (if you try it, be careful because it stains towels and possibly porcelain, but it whitens teeth and reduces inflammation in gum pockets), tongue scraping, flossing, oil pulling with organic coconut oil (sometimes adding a drop of peppermint or clove oil).

I do the oil pulling for 20 minutes most days.

So far, my teeth are whiter, my mouth feels cleaner, and my breath smells good throughout the day.

I’ve done this about a week now. I want to do it for a couple of months and see if it makes a big difference. Some folks claim that oil pulling has huge unexpected health benefits; some say that’s because it reduces inflammation in the mouth and body.

I’ll let you know.

~~~

Finally, I am planning to start a new 21-day challenge on Sept. 1, ending on the fall equinox. I will be doing The Work of Byron Katie, starting with her Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

I will do at least one worksheet online so people can see how The Work actually works.

I’m also re-reading her book, Loving What Is (which she autographed for me last time I saw her!), and will add insights from that and the workshops I’ve attended.

If you’d like to do it along with me, here’s a link to the worksheet online.