Did you know that your jaw is the most frequently used joint in your body? No kidding. Most people move their jaw (thermomandibular joint) 2,000 to 3,000 times a day.
Like most things, when all is well and at ease we don’t even think about our jaws. But when things get tight? Or when we have what is commonly referred to as “TMJ”? Ow!
Jaw tension can make it hard to chew, to laugh, to talk, to drink, to yawn, to sing… oh my. (Aww, dear jaw, thank you for helping me do so many things!)
I remember a 2 week stretch of jaw tension I had last year. I felt like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, and all I wanted was for someone to come and squeeze some oil into my jaw joint.
We can certainly focus on your jaw the next time you come for a massage session, but in the meantime (or if you are a far-away reader), here’s a quick and quite possibly fun(ny) thing you can do to get some relief:
- Get yourself a cork. A wine cork will do just fine.
- Put the cork between your front teeth and bite down on it. It can be the short way or the long way, no matter. Just be sure not to overstretch your jaw to get the cork in there for goodness sake. Also, you don't need a death grip on that cork. Just a bite that will hold it there. Remember, we're aiming for ease.
- If there is someone around, grab them and give them a cork too. If you do this exercise with someone else, you’ll probably laugh, and laughing–especially while biting down on a cork– can be verrrrry helpful for tightness of jaw.
- With the cork held between your teeth, proceed to have a conversation. Or sing. Or laugh. Or tell on all the things that are bugging you. But do make noise, or some kind of sound. Go ahead. For 5 – 10 minutes.
- If no one is around or you’d rather do this alone, you will still need to talk or make vocal noise. Maybe grab your hairbrush and sing yourself a song. Do some karaoke or garage band. Read yourself a poem or a story. Shout and laugh. Anything, but make sounds.
After 5 – 10 minutes take out the cork and then take another minute to massage your jaw like this:
- Use both hands. Put the pad of your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers on your mandible (just under and forward of your earlobe) — you’ll know you’re in the right place if you open your mouth a bit and feel the hinge joint of the jaw moving.
- Once your fingers are in place, firmly (but again, not ow!) make repeated, small circular movements, about the size of the diameter of a nickle or quarter… Your fingers will stay touching the same skin (i.e. not traveling across it), but you will feel your fascia (the connective tissue under the skin) moving in circles with your fingers. (If you’ve had a massage from me, you may remember me doing this).
You can do this exercise a couple times a day, every day, while things are tight.
Wishing you ease. And fun!
P.S. My office hours in Harvard Square are Thursdays & Fridays 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. / Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Come see me!