What you should know about new TMJ safety protocols

As a Massage therapist well trained with years of experience in treating TMJ disorder using intra-oral techniques, the pandemic has been a challenge.  Being able to work safely with clients who have relied on this treatment on a regular basis is of upmost importance. Recently I have become certified in a PPE course for TMJ-focused massage therapists that builds on the best practices of regulatory bodies from both the dental and massage therapy regulatory guidelines.

Face shield and mask

This has ensured that I am up to date with the most thorough and safe guidelines in this specialized technique.  These protocols include the client and therapist both wearing masks and face shields, and communicating through hand signals to lessen verbal communication while intra oral work is being performed.

What is TMJ dysfunction and how can massage therapy help?

TMJ is an acronym for ‘Temporomandibular Joint, the joint that is the ‘hinge’ of the jaw. It is supported by muscles within the mouth, outside and around the face, head and neck. Disorders can be due to problems of the disc within the joint such as degeneration, or muscular imbalance, nerve pathology, or even dental problems. Massage therapy can target the neck, shoulders and muscles of the mouth to relieve tension and imbalance quickly and effectively, often eliminating headaches and jaw pain that may have lingered for months or even years. Intra oral techniques are just one of the many ways to address these issues.

My Jaw has been sore from mask wearing, can this help me?

There has been significant stress related to the pandemic, and TMJ clicking, pain and clenching are some of the signs that this could be affecting you.  Clenching and grinding from emotional stress may be a cause of TMJ dysfunction, but there is also increased strain from poor ergonomics as people have moved to working from home.

Muscles of the Jaw

For example, sitting with one’s head tilted forward, shoulders and neck jutted at uncomfortable angles for prolonged periods at a ‘kitchen table’ set up can lead to jaw distortion and clenching.  Even mask and/or shield wearing can cause people to adjust their jaw or neck position and clench more frequently.

These emotional or physical strains can lead to symptoms including bruxism, clenching, jaw pain, jaw fatigue, neck pain, headaches, grinding, dental problems, tinnitus and sinus or ear pressure.

Massage Therapy can have a safe, effective role in dealing with TMJ pain.  It is best implemented in a program that includes eliminating dental causes, regular exercise, assessing your ergonomic setup, and having a good self care routine.

If you would like to learn more about the protocols for TMJ massage or would like to book a treatment please contact Julie at 905-341-4925 or book an appointment online.

Update: Self Care and Ergonomics-Golfer’s edition

In my practice during the pandemic, I have observed that clients working from home have created a new set of challenges, and pain doesn’t go away just because you’re not at the office. 

This is resulting in clients coming to me with more repetitive strain injuries than I have ever seen before at one time.  They are experiencing new wrist, forearm, neck and low back pain which has developed or is aggravating previous conditions.  As we head into golf and gardening season, this type of overuse becomes even more compacted.

I would like to address this in a way that helps us all get back on the prevention side of what we call ‘repetitive strain injury’ or ‘RSI’.  Today’s post will be some simple forearm stretches that, if done daily, can make a world of difference for forearm and wrist health.  The following is a forearm flexor stretch: As with any stretch if any pain occurs then discontinue, it is not a ‘no pain, no gain’ thing with stretching. 

Now here is an example of how to stretch the opposite muscle group which are the forearm extensors. Make sure your elbow is straight for both stretches, and if comfortable, hold for 30 seconds and do both at least once daily especially if you are keyboarding all day.

 Forearm tension that has been going on for a few weeks or more can be more quickly resolved through massage therapy treatments, particularly with the aid of cupping therapy which I find to have the effect of ‘decompressing’ overused areas.  Please see my page on cupping therapy to find out more about how it works. 

For more acute pain, Julie offers ultrasound therapy- a non-invasive way to address inflammation.  For example, your elbow pain, after a long week at the desk followed by a few rounds of golf- may be tender and sore to the point that even lighter massage techniques feel uncomfortable. The ultrasound unit, which employs sound waves that bounce off the tissues beneath the skin’s surface, can barely be detected as it glides over sensitive areas but can have effective, lasting results, preparing you to be at your best whether it’s at your job or your hobby!