by Helen Mawson
In this article I share with you some information concerning the temporomandibular joint or TMJ (for short!) and its importance for our health. I will talk about how the joint can become unbalanced and the problems that can arise as a result. I will also share with you an exercise that is useful for strengthening the joint.
Location of the TMJ
The temporomandibular joint or TMJ is the joint of the jaw and is a bilateral synovial articulation between the mandible and temporal bone. The name of the joint is derived from the two bones which form the joint: the upper temporal bone which is part of the cranium / skull, and the lower jawbone or mandible. The TMJ essentially connects the jaw to the skull.
Causes of TMJ imbalance
Imbalance in the TMJ may be experienced after receiving dentistry especially after significant dentistry work where individuals have been in the dentists chair with their mouth open for an extended period. Some people hold stress and tension in their jaw area which can make the TMJ ache and feel uncomfortable. Injuries to the neck or jaw can also cause problems with the TMJ that often respond well to treatment. I also work with the procedure to correct imbalance in other areas of the spine that are being compensated for in the TMJ. It is interesting that anatomically the TMJ almost mirrors the pelvis when viewed in a certain way. I will often work with the TMJ procedure when a client is not responding significantly to direct work on the pelvis or lower back as this may bring relief.
Problems that may be caused by TMJ imbalance
When the TMJ is out of balance an individual may experience all sorts of problems, some of these may include;
- Allergies / Hay fever
- Asthma symptoms
- Upper respiratory tract problems
- Congestion in upper respiratory
- Sinus problems
- Swollen glands
- Sore throats
- Neck problems
- Eye sight problems
- Ear problems including tinnitus
- Teeth grinding
- Teeth crowding
- Clicking jaw
- Hormonal imbalance
- TMJ syndrome
- Issues with facial symmetry
The Bowen Technique and the TMJ procedure
The Bowen Technique offers two procedures that work directly with the TMJ and that can be used to address some of the problems listed above. The advanced TMJ can be used to address more long standing or stubborn TMJ problems.
Light moves are made under the mouth and around the neck area, the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) which sits at either side of the neck is gently massaged which helps to drain the lymph in this area. The SCM muscle is like a big tube that sits at either side of the neck and can often become congested and painful. Directly working with this muscle alone can often relive neck pain and sinus type problems. After the SCM has been worked several moves around the neck and throat area are applied. The next part of the procedure has the client placing a finger between their teeth, which opens the joint so we can make a light move over it in order to effect the fascia beneath. Gentle moves are then made behind and around the ear.
The advanced TMJ procedure also applies a light move over the face near the cheek bone which effects the masseter muscle which influences the bite and jaw movement. The advanced procedure will also have an impact upon the vagus nerve which has nerve tracks to many different body systems so in this respect is a significant element to consider when working with this procedure.
Exercise to help strengthen the TMJ
- Open your mouth about one inch wide
- Place one hand under your jaw
- With the hand under your jaw push against the jaw and resist the pressure for 6 seconds then relax
- Repeat the above 5 x
NB. If you are in doubt concerning the balance of your TMJ do not attempt this exercise.