Your body is one giant tissue network. Your tissue ( muscles, tendons, ligaments etc.) forms and settles depending on how you move or do not move your body. If you sit on a couch all day or at a desk chair your tissue will become very good at sitting in a chair position. When you try to move your tissues in ways they are not use to (run, yoga,stretch) they goes through an adaptation period,you may experience tightness or soreness. This does not mean you should not move, and run, and be active! You may just need a little bit of manual manipulation after you get started to help you perform your best. The body tissues will get gunked up from being sedentary, holding onto stress, or from lack of stretching after bouts of movement/exercise. Foam rolling is a great way to un-gunk the tissues and release tension and knots and alleviate fatigue.
Position the foam roller on top of one leg. Begin by rolling from the top of the knees and over the quads. Maintain pressure throughout, and breathe evenly. After spending some time at the quads move to the posterior hips. You can sit on the foam roller with your hands at the sides for support. You can work on one side at a time here. Start at the glutes and roll down toward the back of the knee. Do this on both sides. From here you can move to the hip flexors. These get so gunked up! The space between the top of your quads and hip bone. Turn onto your belly with the foam roller placed into one side hip flexor. Apply pressure and roll back and forth slowly and evenly into the space. Repeat on the other side. To get into the low back/mid back place the roller at your low back with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to the back of your head interlaced to support the neck. Roll up and down while applying pressure. Feel free to move in different directions to break up any specific areas around the spine. From here you can place the foam roller right below your cervical spine at your shoulder blades and roll down the back toward your sacrum. Keep your fingers interlaced at your neck for support. As you roll down exhale deeply through your mouth to allow muscles to relax as you move over them. If at any point during foam rolling you feel sharp pain in an area, stop the movement and adjust the body or move to a different area.
By utilizing the foam roller for just a few minutes a day not only are you breaking up knots you are also bringing blood flow and nutrition into areas that need to recover. A test you can do before and after you use the foam roller is a simple full body roll down. Start standing with feet underneath the hips and roll down to touch your toes. Recognize how far you are able to reach and then once you have completed foam rolling, do this again. It is very likely you will see increased length in the body with just those few minutes of manipulation.
I had an old patient come back for a new issue the other day. He had not been able to open his mouth more than a couple of centimeters for 4 weeks. This patient could not eat or brush his teeth properly. He was drinking milk shakes, smoothies and soup to get nutrition. He had a tooth extracted 4 weeks earlier and shortly after the procedure he found himself in this terrible situation with his mouth clamped shut.
He had been to back to see his dentist, a physical therapist, and a TMJ specialist all to no avail. I always say patients need acupuncture after major dental work! From our clinical experience, 99% of pain in the head and jaw is coming from the neck and shoulders. We worked on his jaw with trigger point acupuncture, we did acupuncture using imaging, and on the 3rd session, I treated him face down, and worked on his neck and shoulders, which were extremely tight. When I finished needling I asked him to try to open his mouth and he practically yelled, “bring me a pizza!!” I told him it may take a couple of times to get him to 100%. Today he called to cancel his appointment a couple of days out because his problem was resolved. This is a man who could not eat and was facing possible surgery. I say it all day long, acupuncture is amazing. It blows me away everyday!
We have many patients who come into the clinic complaining of jaw pain. We often use the catch-all term “TMJ” to describe all kinds of jaw pain, although it technically stands for temporomandibular joint. TMJ is often a result of muscular strain, rather than a structural issue with the joint itself. It can cause all kinds of pain in the jaw, but also the neck, face and head. It can even cause symptoms with the ears, including tinnitus (ear-ringing) or a plugged feeling in the ears. We often see a connection between TMJ and sinus issues, with patients presenting with frontal headaches and sinus pressure. There are not many treatments offered by conventional medicine that provide long-term relief, and many of the therapies offered, including bite guards and medications, can be cumbersome and do not fully address the problem.
Acupuncture has been found to offer immediate relief from TMJ symptoms, as well as effectively treat stress, one of the leading contributing factors to TMJ pain. Research has been done and continues to show that TMJ is very common for people who also report high levels of stress. TMJ is also very common in women. At Acupuncture Northwest, we specialize in trigger point acupuncture, a method that allows us to find and release the tight muscles responsible for the jaw pain. Some of the most common muscles involved are the masseter (our chewing muscle), temporalis, SCM and trapezius muscles. We also address the underlying causes for the jaw pain, including muscle tension, stress, teeth grinding, sleep issues, and other factors that might be in play.
There is no need to continue to suffer with TMJ symptoms. Acupuncture is an easy and effective way to release tight muscles and relieve pain!