I recently met a friend for a coffee to find out he had been diagnosed with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) by his doctor.
He had been on painkillers and anti-inflammatories for several weeks and although the pain had eased off slightly he was still in quite a lot of discomfort. He had also been prescribed with antidepressants in order to treat his anxiety levels as according to the doctor the cause of the problem was stress related.
Although I was familiar with the condition and I had had clients asking me to treat their jaw and facial muscles, this was actually the first time I was treating a client specifically diagnosed with TMD.
Basically this disorder affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. Well.. I thought.. As a sports massage/soft tissue therapist, technically a more correct term to describe my role, I do manipulate and mobilise soft tissue structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue) in order to regain functionality of injured joints. So I thought.. Let’s give it a go!
I explained to my friend that using some simple, non invasive and safe techniques could actually help him with the symptoms and the following day he came to visit me for a brief consultation.
It was just a 20 minutes session. All I did was basically using a technique called “soft tissue release” which involves stretching small areas of soft tissue. This technique usually helps me to “move things around”.. What I mean is that after an injury, trauma or stress caused by repetitive movement some fibers end up adhering to each other creating adhesions or more commonly known as “knots”.
In this case the attachments of the joints were very tight. It just felt to me that the joints needed stretching.
It is now 2 weeks since the session and the pain has completely gone. He is aware that needs to keep an eye and if pain recurs he might need to visit a specialist to discuss ways of stopping grinding his teeth.
There are many conditions that cannot be just treated with some soft tissue work.. We all know it is not that simple.. If only.. But my experience tells me that when it comes to muscular and joint pain it is advisable to try alternative therapies and look for a second opinion before ending up taking several tablets per day for several days, weeks or even months.
Soft tissue therapy can ease off symptoms and decrease or eradicate pain completely allowing soft tissue structures to heal in a quicker and a more functional way.