TMJ Pain

What is the TMJ?

“TMJ” stands for Temporo Mandibular Joint.  Your TMJ is basically your jaw joint that joins and hinges the jaw (mandible) onto the skull (temporal plate of the skull) which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head.


Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

TMJ Dysfunction or TMJ Disorder refers to irritation or improper functioning of the TMJ jaw joint.  Typical symptoms of TMJ Disorder are:

  • jaw pain
  • clicking in the jaw
  • difficulty opening or closing the jaw
  • locking of the jaw
  • grinding the teeth at night
  • headache
  • neck pain

How to Relieve TMJ Pain

To treat TMJ Pain effectively it is essential to do more that treat only the TMJ joint.  One must take into account several of the surrounding structures:

  • The treatment should treat the structures directly related to the joint such as: medial pterygoid, lateral pterygoid, masseter, and temporal muscles
  • The fascia around this area is all very connected and interrelated.  The SCM muscle, for example weaves into the fascia of the TMJ joint as well as the fascia of the face.  Releasing the SCM can thus partially relieve the TMJ joint.
  • The hyoid muscles should also be treated as they can deviate the mandible/jaw laterally
  • Cranial work to rebalance the skull plates can also help relieve tension
  • The suboccipital muscles and other neck muscles can all pull on the fascia of the TMJ causing tension on the joint and should therefore be relieved.

My Approach to treating TMJ Pain

My TMJ treatments typically cover the areas I just mentioned by incorporating a combination of massage, reflexive techniques, stretches, and fascial techniques.

For best results it is recommended to receive treatment once a week for 4 to 6 weeks.


Major Causes of Neck Pain

According to several studies, about 67 percent of adults experience severe neck and shoulder pain in their lifetime. As a CMT, I would have guessed the actual number is much higher than this. As it turns out, neck pain is one of the primary reasons people visit their physician. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what causes this pain and as a result they do not know how to prevent and relieve it. Below is a summary of a few of the major causes of neck and shoulder pain.


Stress causes your muscles to tense up and contract, which leaves them feeling stiff and sore, which makes emotional stress the leading culprit of neck and shoulder pain. We often remember the old saying, “he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders”, oddly enough that is the body’s physiological response to stress. It is important to take a significant amount of time of each day to relax, meditate or do something enjoyable for you. Take a warm bath, read a good book, listen to some music or even watch your favorite television show.

Muscle Strain

Daily heavy lifting and strenuous exercise can cause over-stretched and over-contracted muscles in the neck and shoulders. To prevent pain in this area when working out, it’s important to know your limits.  This also applies to moving and lifting heavy items either on your own time, or at work.


Sleeping in a bad position can cause you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Assuming most of us get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves certain muscles contracted for that entire period. Think about how sore other muscles in your body feel when you use them for hours at a time. That is what causes the severe pain and immobility in the neck the morning after a night sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.

Sitting at a Desk

People who spend a majority of their work day in front of a computer often have neck and shoulder pain because computer monitors are rarely aligned with the person’s eyes. This means that the person must tilt their head up or down to see the screen which puts an enormous amount of stress on the neck. Always adjust your monitor so the center of it is level with your eyes when working on a computer.

Trigger points

Trigger points cause pain more often than any other condition, and are drastically under-diagnosed due to the lack of information about them. Trigger points are hypersensitive areas in muscle that suffer from decreased circulation, increased contraction and spasm. Poor circulation causes a buildup of toxins and increased nerve sensitivity that manifests in the body as a low ache or a sharp pain.  When someone has an active trigger point in a muscle it can cause pain in that muscle or often it can refer pain to another area in the body.

The most common referred pain is in the form of headaches, shoulder and neck pain caused from trigger points in the back of the neck, shoulder and upper back. Such trigger points can remain dormant for very long periods of time but will eventually cause spasm or pain.  Many headaches (including migraines) are caused from these trigger points referring sensation into certain areas of the head.  While most headache symptoms usually are treated with painkillers, though the underlying cause is almost never addressed.

Though the causes of neck and shoulder pain are diverse, there is one common cure for all of them, and it does not involve medicine.  GET A MASSAGE! Almost all of the causes of neck and shoulder pain (even headaches) are muscular.  So put down the anti-inflammatory meds and call your local massage therapist ASAP!!! Reduce stress, lengthen and stretch those muscles, improve your circulation, and get rid of those trigger points.  It may take scheduling a few sessions to get you feeling back to normal, but you will feel the difference immediately.


Headaches to Watch Out For….

I was at the gym this morning when all of a sudden I had a pounding headache, one like I had never had before.  For someone that rarely has headaches, especially of this type, was odd.  I tried to continue my workout, but the pounding would not subside.   I went home, popped and aspirin and slept it off.  Thankfully, when I awoke 2 hours later, the headache and pounding were gone.

Later that same day, I asked one of my clients if he had ever had a headache like this or had he heard of this happening to anyone.   He told me about an article he read previously in the New York Times about someone who experienced this and from the advice of his father who was a Doctor, called 911 and told them, “I have a pounding headache, the worst I have ever had and I am not someone who gets headaches.”   He found out that he had a brain aneurysm and that was one of the signs.  He attributed his Father with saving his life for giving him this information.  I thought this would be valuable information to pass along to others.  I know I am so thankful that I found out about this because I had no idea.  Thank you Paulie!!!

For more information about brain aneurysms:


Hot or cold compresses for achy muscles/ joints?

Both hot and cold compresses can ease pain, but the trick is knowing which one to use when. Any time you have a sudden onset of discomfort (either from a new injury or a flare-up of an existing one), apply a cold pack for 20 minutes, several times a day. Icing the area decreases blood flow to the injured region, which helps prevent swelling and reduce soreness. Ice is nature’s anti-inflammatory, and with all the controversy over pain medication these days, it’s a inexpensive, safe, smart choice. If you live with chronic achy pain from back pain or arthritis, heat is better; it increases blood circulation, soothing muscles and stiff joints. Many of my clients rave about the one-use disposable heat pads and wraps available at the drugstore—you simply stick them on and go.

Myths About Massage Therapy

Myth: No Pain No Gain! 

Truth:  Believe it or not, requesting more and more pressure can leave you in pain for the next 24-48 hours while not bringing you any closer to the healing you were hoping to achieve. Some conditions may be painful, but I will always try to find a way to treat a condition with the least amount of discomfort working within individual pain tolerance. If I am not getting the release from standard massage techniques, instead of applying more pressure and causing more pain, I prefer to employ a variety of advanced techniques instead. I find that using a variety of approaches brings about healing in a more passive manner with long-lasting results.

Myth: A good massage should fix your problem in one session.

Truth:  A more serious problem, or an older injury usually takes a longer time to heal. Most research into the effectiveness of massage, physio or chiropractic care is based on a treatment plan of at least 4 to 6 treatments.  After some sessions it is possible to feel no difference, or even to feel worse temporarily, depending on your condition.  Do not get discouraged.  Follow the treatment plan, attend all the sessions in a timely fashion and do the prescribed home care and exercises that you and your therapist agreed to between your sessions.

For long term health, please consider a maintenance plan of monthly treatments. This approach works well when you are at a level of health that you want to maintain. The monthly massages take care of minor aches before they become problematic. It can also aid you in keeping stress at reasonable levels, prevent headaches and prevent flare ups of chronic problems.

Surprising Reasons You May Be Experiencing Pain

Believe, it or not, the following are possible pain triggers:  Flip flops, smart phones, your wallet, driving, active video games, cheese (bummer, because I love cheese), couch potato syndrome, your baby, etc…