The jaw joint or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be a source of discomfort for many people. TMJ Disorder (TMJD) or TMJ Syndrome and has been associated with a wide variety of other symptoms, some far removed from the jaw itself, for example chronic headaches, sinus problems, visual disturbances, ringing and pain in the ears, facial pain, tingling and numbness in the fingers and even low back pain.
Even more interestingly when I did some research, TMJD has been associated with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and depression. Scientists and medical studies have been unable to explain the connection of TMJD to such a wide variety of dysfunctional conditions affecting both body and mind.
This may be because “scientists” overlook two indisputable facts when they look at human health.
First, the body and mind are one - a single unit linked together from head to toe via joints, muscle and connective tissue called fascia (remember the song, “The leg bone connected to the knee bone…”?).
Second, form follows function. So any “weak links” that cause structural imbalance in one part of the body will transfer throughout the body, decreasing its form and therefore its entire function also. For example, compensating for a broken toe may eventually work its way up to the neck and yes, even the jaw.
To be truly healthy is to have good function, which dictates that your form or posture must be good also. The pain, the symptoms associated with TMJD and even the TMJD itself are simply manifestations of dysfunction resulting from postural imbalance.
So why is the jaw a good example to demonstrate your level of health and function? Because it is highest joint in the body and the last area your body can compensate for postural imbalances transferring up from lower down. Also since the jaw is linked to the skull, we can easily discern dysfunction like muscle tightness, pain, popping or clicking.
Another reason to test the jaw is because the alignment of the mandible (jaw bone) can affect the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland is considered “the master gland” and is chiefly responsible for maintaining your body in a healthy, internally balanced state called homeostasis.
Lets trace the links to the pituitary. Keep reading and you’ll learn the secret to “true health”.
The mandible is connected to a bone in your skull called the sphenoid with muscles called the medial and lateral pterygoids. The sphenoid houses the pituitary gland in a small depression called the sella turcica. So any structural imbalance in the TMJ from strength differences in the pterygoids will transfer structural imbalance to the sphenoid, which will then compromise the function of the pituitary and homeostasis.
Now it might be easy to think that if you can correct the imbalance in the jaw with a bite plate or some surgical procedure you would fix the TMJD and be as healthy as a horse right? Not neccessarily because the jaw is also linked to the shoulders and sternum.
The mandible is connected to the shoulders and sternum via a bone just above the level of the Adam’s apple called the hyoid bone. The hyoid is a “floating bone” and unlike any other bone in the body in that it does not contact other bones; rather it is suspended above and below by muscles. Its main function is to act as an anchor for the muscles that connect the mandible to the hyoid. These muscles are called suprahyoid muscles and act to open or pull the mandible down.
But wait! Muscles called the infrahyoid muscles connect the hyoid to both shoulder blades and the sternum. Their function is to anchor the hyoid in a level, “neutral” position, which is difficult because any unevenness in shoulders height or slouching will unbalance the hyoid and therefore the jaw and pituitary.
The shoulders and upper back are, you guessed it, connected to the lower back and pelvis, which will only be as balanced as the “core” muscles allows them to be. The core is a system of muscles in the trunk and hip region like the glutes (butt) and abdominals that act as the body’s foundation by stabilizing the pelvis and low back.
The jaw tests you tried earlier can now be looked at as indicators of the status of your core since all posture and function originates here.
So now the jaw reveals it’s secret: “True health can only be achieved when the strength of the muscles of the core is balanced and the posture realigned.
Is it possible that to thrive both physically and mentally could be this simple?
Yes! We like complicated things and to make things complicated. We have been conditioned to think that complicated drugs and surgery are the answer to our health problems. They’re not.
That being said restoring balance to the core is not easy. Here's why.
Your brain like all animals is hardwired for survival so it favors using mobilizing muscles that cause gross movement to move your body out of danger. Stabilizing muscles like the core muscles are less likely to be favored and more likely to become weaker since they opposemovement.
The mobilizing muscles now have to work overtime. They compensate by tightening since they have to perform their own function plus that of the weak stabilizing muscles too. Compensating muscles cannot perform both jobs effectively so muscle strength and length imbalances develop causing postural imbalances. A classic example is the hamstring muscles tightening in response to gluteus maximus weakness.
So what can we do? Here are some exercises that I found to help:
Passive Exercise 1:Stand in front of a mirror and open your mouth slowly and gently along a straight opening pathway.
Don’t push into pain if possible. It is important to watch your jaw and make sure it is opening and closing in a symmetrical way.
Passive Exercise 2:In front of the mirror again, slide the bottom of your jaw to the left and to the right in a slow controlled way. Repeat this 10 times per session, six sessions a day.
Once again try and maintain a straight path.
Passive Exercise 3:Click your tongue against the top of your mouth. If this can be done, proceed by opening and closing your jaw while holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Another very important thing to keep in mind is your posture. Make sure you are sitting upright, with your shoulders back and your core firm.
I hope this information has helped you!
Dedicated to your Health & Happiness!
Body Fit by Lynette
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La Grande, OR 97850
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