Myofascial Release treats TMJ pain

February 27, 2012

Headache, Health, Pain, Stress, Trauma

If your TMJ therapy is limited to treatment of your jaw, head and neck, only part of the faulty mechanism creating your pain is being addressed.

by Maria Troia — 

An effective bodywork session should always validate the site of a client’s pain, while looking beyond the complaint for the true source of the problem.

John F. Barnes, physical therapist and developer of the Myofascial Release (MFR) technique, teaches that temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD or TMJ) is not only related to the head and neck, but also is directly related to the position of the pelvis. As such, the entire craniosacral system needs to be considered with TMJD. If your TMJ therapy is limited to treatment of your jaw, head and neck, only part of the faulty mechanism creating your pain is being addressed.

TMJD clients almost always present with a rotation and a torque in the pelvis. This contributes to a forward head posture, which sets up the structure for a TMJ imbalance: a protracted mandible, clenching of the teeth and muscle strain in and around the TMJ.

Many people also experience excruciating headaches, migraines, sinus, ear and neck pain from this imbalance. Stress, injury and trauma will exacerbate the symptoms further. Interestingly, many TMJD clients also present with hip and low back pain, but no one previously made the connection between the two complaints.

The MFR treatment for TMJD focuses on assessing the craniosacral system. In addition to releasing the sacrum and restoring symmetry to the pelvis, the MFR therapist is trained to work inside the mouth with gloved hands, gently releasing the cranial bones from the tourniquet-like restrictions of the fascia, a thin layer of connective tissue that places up to 2,000 pounds of tensile strength on pain-sensitive nerves and blood vessels. The MFR therapist also releases the external restrictions around the head, neck and shoulders.

Fascia also holds memory, and sometimes there may be an emotional connection to the physical pain. Since stress and injury do not just happen to a single body part, but rather to a whole human being, this emotional release is encouraged in the MFR session. The therapist is trained in how to support the client through that process.

Holding on to physical and emotional pain for months and years wears people down and can break their spirits. MFR helps them release the physical pain and the emotional connection to the pain. Clients often feel lighter after a session, both physically and emotionally.

After a session, many TMJD clients ask, “How did you even know it hurt there?” The answer is simple. As John Barnes teaches, “Find the pain, look elsewhere for the cause.”


Maria Troia, MSEd, LMT, NCTMB, CH is trained in the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release and AMMA Therapy®. She is a NCBTMB continuing education provider and owner of East-West Holistic Healing Arts in Old Town Scottsdale, Ariz. 480-313-6260 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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