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Diving Deeper into the World of TMJ: Why Conventional Treatments May Fall Short

If you're reading this, congratulations! You're one of approximately 10 million people navigating the challenges of TMJ. Rest assured, you're not alone in your struggles – whether it's the nightly grinding, morning headaches, jaw lock, or the unwelcome popping sounds during intimate moments, TMJ can be a literal pain in the mandible.

You may have explored conventional treatments like physical therapy or trigger point modalities, only to find temporary relief or incomplete resolution. TMJ's complexity often makes pinpointing the root causes and effective solutions a daunting task.

According to Upledger, the pioneer of Craniosacral Therapy, TMJ might be a symptom of an underlying issue in the body. These underlying problems are diverse but are often linked to:

  • Craniosacral System dysfunction

  • Stress

  • Neurogenic problems/dysfunctions

  • Posttraumatic problems and residuals

  • Structural/somatic problems

  • Degenerative problems and diseases

  • Dental problems

I, too, grapple with TMJ and have experimented with various treatments, including appliances, chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and Craniosacral Therapy. Personally, Craniosacral Mouthwork has proven most beneficial. While each approach contributed some benefits, a combination of healing modalities often yields the best results.

With Physical therapy I learned how important posture is. That was huge for me. Even having extreme strabismus was affecting my posture and since working on this as well as eventually getting eye surgery, I don’t have popping anymore in my jaw. 

Appliances help but they can also hinder the movement of the hard palate that pumps the CSF. Sometimes the appliances also encouraged my clenching since I had something in my mouth to bite into. I oddly found that tapping my mouth helped some. It seemed to allow my surrounding muscles to relax. After all of this experimenting, I had my first Craniosacral Therapy Mouthwork session. It was fascinating to feel instant expansion in my mouth and my jaw significantly improved. Now that I perform mouthwork myself, I love being able to help people find relief when they haven’t been having much success with other modalities

What is Craniosacral?

Made of membranes and Cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. As the CSF is produced and pumped through the body, there are specific movements that occur all throughout. Every cranial plate has a movement and even the bones in the mouth have specific movements.

Let’s dive more into TMJ from the perspective of Craniosacral Therapy.  

The First Culprit: The Temporals

The temporal bones play a pivotal role in TMJ, given their close proximity to the joint's axis of rotation (this close relationship is also why I believe I tend to get tinnitus when I have excessive jaw tension/compression in that area). 

When assessing the temporal movement, I am feeling for the quality and symmetry of how the temporals move on its access. Oftentimes I find asymmetry in the movement, lack of mobility overall or other forms of dysfunction. One goal of mine is to encourage the client's body to bring their temporals to more optimal movements.

It's important to note: Temporal bone dysfunction can stem from various issues within the craniosacral system, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive, whole-body approach. Temporal bones can also be forced into abnormal positions when muscles and ligaments that attach to them are strained. This means that altering between massage and craniosacral treatments can maximize results. 

Next in line: The Mandible (jaw)

The mandible is a single bone with one joint on each end. Therefore when one joint gets “messed up” the other is affected.  Craniosacral Therapy focuses on releasing and balancing the mandible, addressing muscle and ligament tensions on the lower jawbone.

Going Inside: The Hard Palate (Roof of mouth) and Sphenoid

This is where things get interesting. I can’t talk about the hard palate without talking about this beautiful butterfly bone in the middle of your head called the SPHENOID. The Sphenoid connects to just about every other cranium bone (but that’s a different story)

The “legs” of the sphenoid go down to the back molars of the hard palate and the vomer is located in the middle of the hard palate. Dysfunction in the Sphenoid can also be related to dysfunction in the temporals as well as malalignment of hard palate and teeth.

Lifestyle Changes

This is often the hardest part. Personally, I have learned things like chewing gum, high stress, staying up too late, etc, all contribute to excess jaw tension. It's important to learn your triggers and find ways to reduce stress. Massage offers excellent benefits for promoting overall relaxation and releasing tension in tissues. Craniosacral Therapy is effective in lowering sympathetic nerve tone. Modalities such as hypnotherapy and/or biofeedback are valuable for enhancing conscious control over muscular hypertonus, complemented by counseling.


Upledger found that when “direct orthodontic, occlusal and/or surgical interventions are put into play before the craniosacral system is functioning as it’s optimal level, the dental work must often be redone”. In Craniosacral, we also work to mobilize teeth in their sockets which encourage natural positioning. I have worked with several adults either post dental work or in between appliance adjustments and all have found CST mouthwork to be incredibly helpful. 

Ready to see if Craniosacral can help you find TMJ relief? 

Welcome To The TMJ Program!

This package is set up with the focus on encouraging your body to find release and realignment within the cranium and mouth. Keep in mind that every body is different and since I am working with your own natural healing process this system/time frame will be different for everyone. You can spread this out over 5 1 hr sessions but if your body can tolerate the time, 4 1.5 hours is great. Mouthwork can take a while to do thoroughly. 

The Game Plan

Session 1: Full body treatment to introduce the body to Craniosacral: The first session is all about introducing your body to the work. Because we are working with your nervous system it is important to not rush things. A lot of time will be spent on the body.

Session 2: Deeper dive on the cranium: After evaluating how your body received the first session we will be diving deeper into the cranium, checking in on all the plates and facial bones. Most likely we will not be going into the mouth at this point. 

Session 3: Intro to Mouthwork: If your body is ready, we can start the mouthwork protocol. With mouthwork, we start the session working outside the mouth followed by mouthwork and we finish the hour with work back on the outside checking in with the sphenoid and temporals. 

Session 4: Deepdive Mouthwork: After evaluating the first mouthwork session, we work more inside the mouth, largely on the hard palate. 

Session 5: Re-evaluation and treatment plan moving forward: Not only working on the hard palate but also under the tongue and neck muscles. From there we see how your progress is doing and if we want to change any goals/strategy moving forward. At this point, you will have learned more about your nervous system, how this work can help and hopefully have found significant relief with your jaw and overall wellness. Your sense of stress might be lowered and sleep improved. 

In these holiday times, now is the time to restore your nervous system, improve your sense of wellness and find TMJ relief. To schedule your first session, the link below.

You can also call Mend Body Work Business line: (208) 964-0002

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