Jaw tension/pain is a common ailment experienced by many people at some time or another, and can be caused by physical trauma, postural imbalance, clenching teeth when stressed or angry, or not expressing oneself. It can lead to teeth pain, dental problems, TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), headaches, and chronic neck and shoulder tension.
If you've experienced physical trauma to your jaw or head, clench or grind your teeth when stressed and struggle to fully express yourself, then you can see why your jaw might be constantly holding tension and pain! Regardless of the cause of jaw pain and tension, Intra-Oral massage is an immensely helpful treatment method. The relief and results are often immediate.
So What is Intra-Oral Massage?
As the name implies, it is massage inside your mouth. Some of the primary muscles for closing your jaw are best worked from the interior of your mouth, including the masseter and medial pterygoid. If you're clenching or grinding, these guys are working hard. These muscles are also innervated by the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for a lot of the pain you feel. By freeing up the fascia and muscle tissue around the nerves, the pain can be decreased. By relaxing the muscles, a practitioner can enable them to return to their full length and function better, which increases range of motion and allows it to be smoother (less popping and less pain).
As with all massage techniques, each practitioner has their own style. Sanachi Massage owner Sanna Miller LMT's approach is to release the fascia and the nerves around your jaw which allows your muscles to relax and the pain to subside. She often incorporates energy balancing into the Intra-Oral massage for even deeper release of emotional holding. Wearing nitrile gloves, she works inside the mouth (with 1 or 2 fingers) using comfortable pressure. She places her other hand on your head or face to either balance energy or release the tissue from multiple surfaces. She re-assesses in the moment to see how your range of motion has improved and where it still feels restricted.
What is "Normal" Range of Motion for the Jaw?
Ideally, you should be able to fit three stacked knuckles inside your teeth. Make a fist, extend out the knuckles from your second through fourth fingers, and all three should fit comfortably between your upper and lower teeth. Many people can only fit two knuckles which is less than ideal range, but not necessarily indicative of a functional problem. If you can't fit more than one knuckle between your teeth, you are likely dealing with loss of function due to all the tension in the muscles and TMJD.
When is it Best to Receive Intra-Oral Massage?
If you have chronic tension in your neck and shoulders that isn't being helped with regular massage, you may greatly benefit from an Intra-Oral session. Releasing restrictions in the jaw allows the fascia and muscles of the upper body to relax and let go of tension held to compensate for the tension in the jaw.
Other Reasons to Get Intra-Oral Massage:
Limited range of motion in jaw
Tension from teeth clenching/grinding
Pain and tension from TMJD
Intra-Oral massage is also a wonderful therapy to schedule around dental work. It can be beneficial before a dental procedure to help relax the muscles and increase the ease of opening your mouth wide for awhile. It can help post-dental work to relieve pain and decrease tension.
If the benefits of receiving Intra-Oral massage all sound good, but you're thinking it sounds too weird to receive, it actually isn't! Sanachi Massage owner, Sanna Miller explains:
“I thought [it would be weird] the first time someone worked inside my mouth, but receiving Intra-Oral massage was life-changing for me. After 30 years of compounded tension following a physical trauma, I stopped having chronic headaches and the achy tension in my neck and shoulders greatly diminished. Chewing food was no longer fatiguing to my jaw. It no longer pops loudly and painfully every time I yawn. I was initially hesitant but it felt so good that I immediately knew I needed to become certified in this technique. It provides so much relief and relaxation that people can even fall asleep during the treatment! After providing this treatment for the past 6 years, I have seen many great results.”