By Kelli Rosen, Delicious Living
If you suffer from chronic facial pain related to problems with the jaw, namely the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, you may want to turn to natural therapies for relief–and take the bite out of jaw pain for good. And while each treatment is effective alone, experts recommend utilizing these options in concert.
By balancing the energy around the jaw, “acupuncture is very effective in addressing the root causes of grinding and clenching, such as stress, anger, and frustration, making it an excellent treatment option,” says Carrie Corey, LAc, LMT, a massage and acupuncture practitioner in Bethesda, Maryland. “Since tension decreases the flow of blood and energy qi in the [jaw] area, needles can be placed directly in tender points to relax specific areas of muscle.”
During a session for TMJ pain, expect needles to be inserted in acupoints along the channels that flow through the face, neck, or jaw, including the head, arms, and legs. Although many people experience positive results after only one session, don’t give up if relief isn’t immediate. “I usually recommend that patients allow six to eight visits before assessing if acupuncture will or will not be effective,” says Leslie Axelrod, ND, LAc, a practitioner in Scottsdale, Arizona.
This is a gentle form of bodywork, where a practitioner–usually a naturopathic physician or massage therapist–manipulates the craniosacral rhythm, the motion of cerebrospinal fluid within the membrane around the brain and spinal cord. Influencing this rhythm and encouraging it to flow freely is the key to this technique’s success.
“Jaw pain is often the result of chronic tension and stress, which become held in the memory of the fascia and muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint; craniosacral therapy facilitates the release and opening of the tense connective-tissue web holding the jaw in a painful pattern,” explains Emily J. Telfair, ND, CMT, of the Baltimore area. “The practitioner uses a gentle touch to unwind and stretch the fascia, which allows the underlying muscles to relax.”
Because it’s gentle, craniosacral therapy performed by a trained professional is safe for anyone. However, if your jaw pain is new or follows an injury, get examined by a medical practitioner first to rule out any contributing factors.
Massaging jaw muscles brings immediate relief–and may lead to long-lasting results, especially if your therapist has experience with jaw pain. “Ask if they know how to do intra-oral work,” suggests Ray Wanjura, LMT, of the Austin School of Massage in Austin, Texas. That means the therapist puts on a rubber glove and massages the muscles inside your mouth. “The [jaw] joint can become misaligned when muscles aren’t working properly,” he says, “but working on the muscle tissue will allow the joint to realign and stabilize naturally.”
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