Unlock Your Jaw and Heal Your Pain

A lot of people develop jaw pain, tooth pain, headaches and TMJ dysfunction. However, often times our aches and pains are a result of unnecessary tension in our muscles, or from faulty movement patterns. After a period of time, these habitual patterns can cause excruciating pain, joint dysfunction and joint destruction. Yikes!

However, we can interrupt these harmful patterns by simply improving our attention and awareness. Try this simple but highly effective movement lesson based on the magic of The Feldenkrais Method®.

1) Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You may need to support your head with a folded towel. Don’t use a pillow–a pillow is too soft to provide your nervous system with the appropriate feedback (proprioception).

Take a few minutes to relax, take a few deep breaths, and feel your weight gently sink into the floor.
Bring your attention to your face, neck and jaw. Does your neck feel tight? Does your mouth or the muscles of your face feel tense? Are your teeth touching?
Don’t try to change or “fix” anything, and don’t place any judgement on what you are sensing. Instead, be aware of what you are feeling and sensing in your face, jaw and neck.
Stop and rest your attention for a few moments.
It may sound strange to “rest” when you might feel like you haven’t really done anything,  but it’s important to rest your attention, and to slow yourself down.

2) Once again bring your attention to your face, neck and jaw.

Slowly begin to open and close your mouth in a very small and easy range of motion. Do not open your mouth all the way, and do not let your teeth touch as you close it. Stop and rest.
Continue to open and close your mouth by making the movement even smaller and slower. Make it small, smooth, soft and easy. Stop and rest with your mouth gently closed without your teeth touching.
Continue the gentle movement of opening and closing your mouth in a smooth, continuous, rhythmical way. Stop and rest.

3) Gently open your mouth in an easy range of motion, and in a position where you feel no sense of stress, strain, or discomfort.

Gently take your lower jaw a little to the left in a comfortable position. Again, slowly and rhythmically  open and close your mouth while leaving your jaw to the left. Do not allow your teeth to come together. Pay attention to the joint of your jaw, which is located just in front of the opening of your ear. If you hear a clicking of your jaw, or you experience and pain or discomfort, make smaller and smaller movements until you find a range of movement that is comfortable for you.  Stop and rest.

4)  Again, open your mouth in an easy and comfortable range of motion and gently take your lower jaw a little to the right.

Open and close your mouth in a comfortable range of motion while leaving your jaw to the right. You may want to take a moment to compare the 2 sides of your jaw and how they move. Often times, one side moves easier than the other. If you hear a clicking of your jaw, or you experience and pain or discomfort, make smaller and smaller movements until you find a range of movement that is comfortable for you. Stop and rest.

5) One last time, return to just opening and closing your jaw as you did at the beginning of this movement exploration.

Notice the sensations in your face, neck and jaw now. Notice the quality of the movement as compared to when you first began this movement exploration? Stop and rest. Give yourself a few moments before you slowly bring yourself to sitting and eventually to standing. Take a brief walk around the room before you continue with your day.

This simple movement lesson will help you identify when you are holding excess tension in your face and jaw, allowing you to interrupt these patterns and heal your pain. Feldenkrais….you simply have to try it to believe it!

The Power of Words, and Permanent Damage

I love working with people, and I love helping them recover from injuries and chronic pain. I recently worked with a young woman who was experiencing persistent neck pain from an auto accident. Along with her neck pain, she also had frequent headaches, numbness in her hands and arms, decreased cervical range of motion, difficulty keeping up with her job, and her home life was suffering.

However, after just a few weeks of gentle therapeutic movement, her neck pain dramatically decreased, her headaches were gone, the numbness in her hands and arms were a distant memory, her cervical range of motion improved, her energy increased, and she was able to return to work full-time. Even better, she got a spark in her eye, a spring in her step, and her remarkable wit and sense of humor returned.

We both decided that she no longer needed to see me, and she was off to enjoy the life she loved before her accident. Therefore, I was stunned when she came back a few weeks later with a full-blown return of all her symptoms. She was in tears, extremely depressed and in severe pain. I couldn’t understand what went wrong, until she told me the story.

She had returned to her physician for a follow-up assessment, which included cervical x-rays. Her physician looked at the films, showed them to her, and informedher that she may have permanent damage” as a result of the accident. He told her that she may never be the same as she was prior to the incident, and may be looking at a life of pain and dysfunction. Yikes!

I reminded her that she had been pain-free for weeks, had regained her strength, range of motion and had returned to all of her activities. She burst into tears and wailed, “But that was before I knew I had “permanent damage!” Uh-oh.

I pointed out that her doctor said that she may have permanent damage; he never said that she did have permanent damage. Through her tears she explained that she saw the x-rays herself and they looked “pretty bad”. Surprised, I asked her if she had ever seen an x-ray before. No, she never had, but she assured me that they looked awful. Sheesh!

Language has power. An unfortunate choice of words can transform someone who is healing into someone who has no hope of recovering. Words can heal or harm, encourage or destroy, empower or devastate. They can even cause permanent damage. So choose them carefully, and think before you speak.