Massage Therapy and Temporomandibular Disorders

It’s not news that massages offer more benefits to us than just a few heavenly minutes of relaxation (and some peace and quiet) – in reality they can serve as a natural solution to many of the illnesses, injuries, and everyday aches and pains we experience.

Of course, not all types of massages are suitable for every ache and pain – but the right massage can work wonders.

With that in mind, we are going to take a look at how massage therapy relates to and aids with one specific set of issues that many people experience: Temporomandibular disorders.

An Introduction to Temporomandibular Disorders

The term “Temporomandibular disorders” encompasses a variety of issues that affect one’s temporomandibular joint.

But What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?

To put it in the simplest terms, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the piece that connects your jawbone to your skull (along with the various ligaments and muscles that are connected to it).

This piece, the TMJ is a small disc-like piece of cartilage that sits between the upper jawbone (which is along the base of your skull) and the lower jawbone.

Essentially, it is a hinge (yes, like on a door) that allows movement of the jaw. Unlike a door hinge, however, which only provides one form or direction of movement, the TMJ enables us to move our jaws in a few different ways.

Not only does the TMJ allow us to move our jaw in an up and down motion, we are also able to move our jaws in both a forward and backward sliding motion and a side-to-side sliding motion.

This range of motions combine to allow us to perform various functions such as speaking, chewing food, etc.

What Are Some Common TMJ Injuries?

Different injuries to the TMJ, known as the temporomandibular disorders (TMD), can arise due to a variety of reasons and can cause different symptoms for different individuals.

The most common causes of TMD are:
  • Trauma to the jaw, joint, or surrounding muscles – such as whiplash or a forceful hit to the jaw/face – which can cause fractures or torn ligaments/muscles
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth, which in turn causes too much pressure on the joint and can cause inflammation and soreness
  • Arthritis in the joint

How Can I Tell If I Have A TMD?

Of course, you won’t know for sure unless you visit a doctor, but some common symptoms to watch for if you suspect you have injured your TMJ are:

  • Pain, soreness, and general discomfort of the area (on one or both sides of your face)
  • Difficulties opening and closing your mouth, especially when eating or yawning
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening and closing your mouth
  • Swelling (again, on one or both sides of your face)
  • Toothaches, headaches, neck aches, or earaches
  • And lastly, even dizziness or ringing in your ears (also known as Tinnitus)

Massage Therapy for TMD?

Many who suffer from TMD have found the typical doctor recommended exercises, medications, etc. to be of little to no help in reducing the pain and discomfort their TMJ is causing them. This leads to many cases of individuals dealing with these issues long term – living with the pain everyday.

Fear not.

If you have been diagnosed with a TMD, there may be a few ways to heal the joint – or at least relieve some of the pain and discomfort impeding on your daily life – using massage therapy.

Intra-Oral VS. Extra-Oral Massages

When it comes to TMD, there are two directions you can take with your massage therapy treatment: intra-oral or extra-oral.

Intra-oral massages consist of treatment of the muscles inside of the cheek. This means the massage is done inside of your mouth. Massaging these muscles from inside, rather than from outside of the mouth, can actually be up to 80% more effective.

Extra-oral massages include any massaging of the facial muscles around the mouth from the outside. These massages are less invasive – and in turn more comfortable – and still highly effective for treating a variety of TMD symptoms.

Below we will take a look at one type of extra-oral massage that is commonly used to help treat issues surrounding the temporomandibular joint.

Myofascial Release for TMD

Myofascial release is a technique used specifically to help relax muscles and soft tissues in order to regain function and treat chronic pain – both of which are symptoms highly common to TMD.

Your fascias are the connective tissues that surround your muscles – injury and inflammation of your fascias can cause pain and discomfort and restrict motion. These fascial restrictions are common for those who have issues with their TMJ.

So, What Is Myofascial Release?

This is a technique used by trained therapists that consists of light pressure being applied to the soft tissue area around the affected area to release fascial restrictions. This release is done by increasing blood flow in the area, relaxing the muscles, and elongating the fascial tissues.

What to Expect

Going for a Myofascial release session is very similar to going to any other type of massage therapy. Your session may last from 30 minutes up to an hour, and will begin with your therapist identifying the certain areas that will need to be worked on.

For TMD, the areas that your Myofascial therapist will typically work on include the muscles and soft tissues of your neck, shoulders, jaw, and various spots around your head (including the intra-oral massage technique we discussed earlier).

Of course, it’s also important to practice techniques outside of your scheduled appointments as well. Self-care techniques that your therapist can show to you will only quicken the healing process and keep the pain at ease.

What Are You Waiting For?

Many who have gone through various massage-therapy treatments for different issues surrounding their temporomandibular joint have seen significantly reduced pain and discomfort as well as increased flexibility and movement of the jaw.

If you have been diagnosed with any type of TMD, or are experiencing symptoms that sound like it could be TMD – speak with your medical professional about massage therapy treatments and whether or not they would be right for you.

References:

  1. https://www.massagetique.com/types/myofascial-release/
  2. http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/temporomandibular-disorders
  3. https://brontewellness.com/expect-tmjintra-oral-massage/
  4. http://intrains.co.uk/experience/shop
  5. https://paincareclinic.co.uk/pain/pain-conditions/tmj-and-jaw-pain/

Gua Sha Massage: FAQ’s & Common Questions

You’ve probably heard of the Thai massage, and you’ve definitely heard of the Swedish massage, but have you ever heard of the Gua Sha massage?

Probably not – but that’s okay.

There are so many different “types” of massage therapy practiced all over the world – too many to count surely – that it would be ridiculous to expect someone, anyone, to be familiar with all of them.

But this is one type of massage you’re going to want to know about.

Gua Sha is an ancient and unique approach to natural healing that has the potential to counter a variety of health issues faced by individuals today.

Learn more about what Gua Sha is and how it can help you by reading our FAQ and common questions answered below.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese massage therapy dating back at least 700 years, to the Ming Dynasty. Despite this technique having such a long history across Eastern Asia, it is only within the last few decades that this practice has made its way into the western world.

Roughly translated, “Gua Sha” means “to scrape away fever”, as Gua is the Chinese term for rub or scrape, and Sha refers to an energy within the body that causes excess heat.

Of course, in ancient times this technique was considered more of a spiritual practice, believing that the combination of the tools and the movements were able to rid one’s body of blocked “energies” that were causing the negative effects. Today, in western society, the concept is more scientific than spiritual, but follows the same general idea, only with the focus being on ridding the body of heat and inflammation, rather than of negative energies.

How is Gua Sha Performed?

How Gua Sha is performed is what makes it inherently different from some of the other more common massage techniques you may know of.

While most massages are performed solely with one’s hands, the Gua Sha technique requires a tool – a firm object possessing smooth, rounded edges – to use against the skin.

Traditionally, a soupspoon, coin, or piece of water buffalo horn are used, but over the years and with the transition to western society, a variety of other tools – even tools made specifically for this purpose – are now common within the practice as well.

After the targeted area is oiled, the tool is then used, specifically at a 45-degree angle, to rub a combination of long and short downward strokes across the skin. This is done to bring the heat to the surface of the skin, with the intent of releasing it from the body.

Most commonly, this technique is used on the back, neck, arms, legs, and buttocks, but is also sometimes performed (more delicately) on the chest and face. Where the massage is performed depends on what type of issue is being treated.

When is Gua Sha Used?

Typically, this type of massage therapy is used to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. By doing this, Gua Sha is believed to be able to treat a number of conditions varying from acute or chronic disorders, the common cold or flu, and everyday aches and pains.

What Are the Benefits of Gua Sha?

Gua Sha carries with it a number of benefits that affect our bodies in different ways. A few of these benefits include:

  • A Stimulated Immune System – when Gua Sha is performed, it helps to activate the recipient’s immune system. With the immune system activated, the body is better able to speed up its natural healing process. This allows the recipient to better combat current illnesses and is proactive in helping one to avoid future illnesses.
  • Reduced Pain – because Gua Sha is a natural anti-inflammatory, it can significantly reduce both chronic and acute pain caused by a number of different issues that center around inflammation of different parts of the body.
  • Increased Circulation – the ways in which Gua Sha stimulates the body helps to increase the circulation of various fluids within the body. The improved circulation helps our bodies better rid themselves of waste, specifically metabolic waste, which congests our muscles.
  • Anti-Aging Properties – this is, of course, not one of the medical benefits of Gua Sha, but who wouldn’t want to add a massage to their beauty routine? A gentler version of Gua Sha used on the face can help smooth lines and wrinkles, tighten the skin, and decrease puffiness around the eyes.

Aside from the various chronic illnesses often treated with Gua Sha, a number of studies have been done determining that Gua Sha has in fact promoted healing for a an even larger array of health concerns, including (but not limited to): Hepatitis B, migraines, Tourette’s, and Perimenopausal syndrome.

In each of the case studies, patients noticed improvements with their symptoms, such as reduced pain and discomfort, less anxiety, and even cured insomnia.

Is Gua Sha Safe?

While Gua Sha is a safe technique, it is still in one’s best interest to contact their doctor or another medical professional before seeking treatment – and seek treatment from someone qualified to perform the massage properly.

Of course, Gua Sha is not suitable for everybody. If you are experiencing any of the following, than Gua Sha may not be for you:

  • You have recently had surgery
  • You are on blood thinners or are prone to blood clots
  • You have some sort of medical implant, such as a pacemaker
  • You have an open wound or infection

Is Gua Sha For You?

If you believe Gua Sha may be beneficial in treating an ailment you are struggling with, discuss it with your doctor. Gua Sha, when performed correctly, can have an amazing impact on many different issues and can truly help to improve the quality of life for the individuals struggling with those issues.

Aside from its healing effects, Gua Sha can be a great way to simply relax and soothe your muscles and mind.

With benefits like these, there is really no harm in considering Gua Sha as a treatment (or just a treat). Find a qualified therapist near you now and experience it for yourself.

References

  1. https://www.massagetique.com/types/gua-sha/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/gua-sha#benefits
  3. https://blog.sidekicktool.com/what-is-gua-sha-therapy-how-it-works/
  4. https://www.europeanmedicalmassageco.com/techniques/raindrop-technique-2/gua-sha-faqs/#toggle-id-5
  5. https://www.bluecreekhealth.com/posts/gua-sha-benefits/

The Science of Massage: 5 Ways Massage Makes You Feel Better

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that getting a massage feels oh so good – but it does actually require science to explain why.

 Sure, we all know the general reason why massages feel so good. A combination of the relaxing atmosphere, scented oils, and tension releasing touch of the masseuse is enough to rid anyone of their troubles for $60 per hour.

But it’s more than just our senses that are at play during a massage – massages actually have a number of affects on the chemical balances and physiological state of our bodies.

Science Says So

  1. Endorphins Everyday

Endorphins are often referred to as the “feel good” chemical, but what exactly are they and why are they referred to in that way?

Endorphins are a naturally occurring hormone that is released within our brains and nervous system that activate the body’s opiate receptors. The ways in which endorphins interact with our receptors actually reduce the pain signals sent to our brains, increase our ability to focus, and have an uplifting affect on our overall mood.

Different massage techniques, especially techniques such as acupressure and trigger point therapy, help our body to create and release higher amounts of endorphins. With our body essentially in “endorphin overdrive”, its no surprise that massages make us feel so good psychologically as well as physically.

  1. Circulation Works Wonders

Massages are commonly used to increase the circulation of different fluids within our bodies through both physical manipulation of the soft tissue as well as through the chemicals that are released as a result of such.

Both improved blood circulation and improved lymph circulation are great ways to increase the flow of oxygen and other nutrients throughout our bodies, specifically to our muscles. This works to create healthier cells and tissues, which in turn helps our bodies to function more efficiently, especially in regards to removal of toxins and waste.

This works wonders for reducing muscle aches and pains and giving us a general feeling of relaxation and wellbeing.

  1. Don’t Mind If I Do(pamine)

Dopamine is yet another hormone released in our bodies that provide us with uplifting psychological effects. It is a neurotransmitter that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, as well as regulating movement and emotional response. For this reason dopamine plays a large role in reward-motivated behaviours.

But that isn’t all – dopamine (similar to the previously mentioned endorphins) can also have uplifting effects on our moods by encouraging feelings such as joy, inspiration, and enthusiasm.

With massages elevating the amount of dopamine released within our bodies, we are sure to experience these positive effects in no time.

  1. Our Brains Turn Off

Okay maybe our brains don’t turn off in a literal sense (because that would not actually be a good thing), but during a massage our brains do tend to enter into a type of meditative state.

This is more common when we are receiving gentle massages, versus something more aggressive like a deep tissue massage (which only makes sense). As our bodies begin to relax our minds lull. The constant chatter of everyday life that often fills even the smallest corners of our mind dwindles away until we are in a “quiet” place, of sorts, where our brain is neither thinking of nor focusing on anything particular.

This lack of thought has many therapeutic physiological benefits, such as helping us feel at ease and at peace with ourselves and our situations – almost like a sense of euphoria.

  1. Oxytocin? Okay!

Surprise, surprise, another hormone!

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” because it is most commonly released during intimate interactions such as when we are hugging or kissing a loved one. It positively affects our ability to trust, bond, and empathize.

In simpler terms, oxytocin makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, so it only makes sense that an oxytocin-releasing massage would give us the same feeling.

And That’s Not All!

Now we know why massages feel so good, but did you know that they actually are incredibly beneficial to our health as well?

Massages act as a natural healing mechanism for a variety of health issues because of the chemical and physiological effects they have on our bodies.

Some of the health benefits massages offer (aside from all the ways they make us feel good) include:

  • Massage therapy can help heal your body after injuries, surgeries, or trauma by increasing flexibility and function
  • Abdominal massages can help solve digestive problems such as constipation
  • Massages of the shoulders, neck and head can significantly reduce the symptoms of headaches and migraines
  • Massage can help those with insomnia sleep better
  • Certain massages are act as natural anti-inflammatories, which can aid in reducing both chronic and acute pain in a number of situations
  • Massages can even help your body process and drain lymph fluid, which can improve your immune response, especially in those with auto-immune disorders

Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years in all cultures and areas of the world for good reason: the physical and physiological effects massage therapy provides to us are innumerous, with more benefits being discovered each day.

What Are You Waiting For?

After reading this, it’s clear that science is basically telling you to go ahead and book yourself a massage (or two… or more) – you deserve to treat yourself after a long week, and now you can prove that this little treat is good for your health as well. Not only will you come out with a relaxed body, but you will be in a better mindset as well! A true win-win!

References

  1. https://www.massagetique.com/explore/benefits-of-massage/
  2. http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/science-backed-ways-massage-makes-you-feel-better
  3. https://www.canyonranch.com/blog/health/why-massage-feels-so-good/
  4. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-does-massage-work
  5. https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/11/08/neurohormonal-effects-massage-therapy
  6. https://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/healing-effects-massage-mind

The Tingling Means It’s Working: Why Massages Make You Tingle

Of course we all know that massages make us feel good – they relax our bodies and our brains – but have you ever noticed that a massage can also cause somewhat of a tingling feeling?

Most commonly this tingling occurs in the hands or feet of the recipient either during or after the massage – and not only if that’s the area being massaged. But how is it, then, that a neck, back, or any type of massage really, can cause such sensations in totally different areas of the body? It may seem worrisome, but it’s actually a great sign that your massage is having a positive affect on your body.

Below, we’ve outlined the science behind why massages make you tingle, and why this tingling means that it’s working.

Your Muscular and Nervous Systems are Connected

With your muscles making up a whopping 40% of your body weight (on average), and your body being home to billions of neurons responsible for your sensory functions, it should not be a surprise that your muscles are actually the largest sensory “organ” that you have.

Whether your muscles are working consciously or automatically, any action you make ultimately was the result of stimulated nerve endings.

How This Works

Your mind thinks of the action, this thought is transferred to your central nervous system (which is composed of the brain and spinal cord) before entering into the peripheral nervous system (which is any nerve outside of the CNS). When the nerves responsible for controlling the required muscle(s) are alerted, a chemical called acetylcholine is released from these nerve endings ultimately causing the muscle to contract and perform the action you had originally thought of.

This sounds like a long process, when in reality each of these steps all takes place within a millisecond – literally, 1/1000th of a second.

Knowing now that, really, our nerve endings are responsible for how we use our muscles, is it really so crazy to understand how this can work the opposite way as well – with our nerve endings being affected based on how our muscles are touched and manipulated?

Not only the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments, and fascia surrounding our muscles are unbelievably full of nerve endings – nerve endings that produce a lot of sensation. This means that it is very easy for physical manipulation to our muscles, such as when we get a massage, to create an array of sensations throughout our bodies.

Better Blood Flow

Not only can this tingling be accredited to the physical manipulation and stimulation of the nerve endings within your muscles, but it may also be caused by the increase in blood flow caused by your massage.

A massage encourages better circulation due to the pressure of the massage causing blood to move through otherwise congested areas. As this pressure is released, new blood begins to flow through the area. This new blood also brings to the area additional oxygen, which can help to heal damaged or tense muscles. As muscles become stronger and healthier, the nerve endings in those muscles will become more susceptive to various sensations.

This is true especially if you suffer from poor circulation to begin with. In this case, this new blood flow can easily cause unique sensations, such as tingling, numbness, or even itching as your previously under-stimulated nerve endings are once again put into use.

What Types of Massages Most Commonly Cause This Tingling

Certain types of massages, of course, are more likely to cause the tingling sensation than others. Factors such as amount of pressure being applied, length of massage, the targeted area being massaged, and the massage method all come with their own benefits and side effects.

Generally, any type of massage that has higher amounts of pressure being applied to your muscles (and in turn your nerve endings) or that works specifically to increase blood flow throughout your body (especially your extremities) will result in at least a slight tingling or “fuzzy” feeling either at the targeted spot or in your hands and feet.

One specific massage technique that people commonly claim causes them to experience this sensation is Neuromuscular Therapy (often referred to simply as trigger point therapy).

Neuromuscular Therapy

 This type of massage therapy typically consists of the therapist applying direct and prolonged pressure on certain “trigger points” to redistribute localized stress – aka those pesky knots that seem to pop up when we least need or want them.

This method may also be used to address issues affecting other parts of your body but stemming from nerves in a certain area (for example sciatic pain in the legs is addressed through pressure points in the lower back area – this is also known as referred pain).

Depending on the tightness and severity of the muscle and the knot, this type of massage may first result in pain, and the tingling will typically arise as the nerve endings being stimulated begin to respond to the intensity of the pressure being applied to the area.

Just One Of The Many Benefits

Tingling may not be a benefit in itself (except to those who seem to enjoy the odd sensation) but it is definitely a good sign if your massage causes such, as the tingling is result of benefits such as increased circulation and healthier muscles.

If you need any more reason to book yourself a massage, don’t forget that massages are good for more than just the tingle – in fact they are natural remedies for many chronic illnesses, injuries, and even just the aches and pains you feel from living your life. And hey, if you don’t have any physical health concerns they are also a great stress reliever after a long week at work or a just great way to treat yourself for no reason at all (we aren’t judging).

References

  1. https://www.massagetique.com/types/neuromuscular-therapy/
  2. https://www.painscience.com/articles/why-massage-makes-you-tingle.php
  3. https://www.livestrong.com/article/359490-how-are-the-muscular-nervous-systems-connected/
  4. https://www.massageenvy.com/massage/massage-benefits/improves-circulation/

Ways to Celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week

At Massagetique, we believe in the importance of sharing the benefits of massage with the community. EveryBody Deserves a Massage week encourages massage therapists and bodyworkers across the country to come together and do just that. This recognition week was founded by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) in 1995 to help promote the importance of massage and bodywork within local communities.

Join the Massagetique team and others in recognizing EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week from July 15-21. We encourage you to share the benefits of massage with those around you during this week and take steps to make massage more accessible to everyone in your community.

You might do this by:

  • Teaching a class on massage
  • Giving a lecture about different types of massage
  • Hosting an event to demonstrate massage techniques that can be practiced at home as self-care
  • Volunteering your services or offering discounts
  • Creating a contest
  • Creating and sharing informational flyers. 

The Massagetique team has created images you can share on social media and elsewhere to help promote EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week. Feel free to save, download, and/or print the images below and use them in your marketing materials (click on an image to download the file).

Additionally, here are educational articles about massage you can share on your blog, social media platforms, or other outlets throughout the week:

Throughout the week, Massagetique will share massage resources on our website and social media platforms and highlight ways massage can promote wellness and help treat health conditions. Let us know how you intend to celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week in the comments below. Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #EveryBodyDeservesMassage.