Mouth Work and Massage Therapy. Chew on this.

January 12, 2014

Massage and mouth work may sound paradoxical, but when we are discussing car accidents and impacts to the head and jaw, we are talking about trauma. Trauma to the mouth often means tissue and bones become compressed and ‘loaded.’ Whether or not you have a visit to the emergency room, or walk it off, the body does not take kindly to this kind of rough housing. Assessment by a qualified physician is always prudent. Following this, get yourself assessed by a quality massage or physical therapist, someone who knows how to assess and feel for restricted or compressed tissue. Such injuries are usually untreated because few health care providers understand how impact energy can reside in the tissue or how compression can be released. Trauma to the body can have as much to do with how a body (nervous system and tissue) perceives an event as it does simply absorbing external kinetic energy.

A hit or impact to the nose, mouth, eye, forehead or jaw may result in compression to many bones of the face. These bones have direct relationship to the deep tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, potentially causing internal tension and restriction on tissue or cranial nerves. Such compression to the bones, tissues and muscles can be assessed and fully treated by a skilled practitioner. Left unaddressed, these tensions and restrictions can lead to pain and dysfunction for us in the future. Sometimes such residing tension from a childhood or teenage fall, seemingly not much of an issue at the time, can become the source of headaches, head pain, neck or shoulder pain or even low back pain later in life.

When would I want to get mouth release done? If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you may benefit from mouth work. Issues of tightness and restriction can come from impacts and falls, but also from braces, dental surgery, and bruxism. I recently worked on a woman with whiplash and her reaction of her jaw slamming closed at the time of impact was enough to create notable compression in the fascial bones and head. This seemed to be contributing to her cognitive deficit, short term memory issue and speech impairment. Releasing these structures helped mitigate many of these symptoms in her head, and elsewhere in her body too. If you are in doubt about potential mouth tension, discuss this with a practitioner ‘in the know.’ Select MDs, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists offer this form of release.  In the state of Washington, massage therapists are required to take an ‘intraoral endorsement’ for them to legally work in your mouth, meaning they pursue additional training for it. The work is very specific, however, not at all what we usually consider massage.

  • Do you grind your teeth?
  • Have your suffered from a concussion?
  • Have you had brain trauma?
  • Have you fallen on your face?
  • Have your worn braces?
  • Does your jaw click?
  • Do you have jaw pain?
  • Do you suffer from headaches?
  • Do you suffer from chronic sinus issues?
  • Have you broken your nose?
  • At your dentist’s office, have you had your mouth open extended periods of time?
  • Have you had dental surgery?
  • Do you have head pain?
  • Have you been hit in the mouth or head?
  • Have you ever fallen on your tailbone? (No, I’m not kidding here. Keep reading my blogs and you’ll see the connection)
  • Do you have SI joint pain? Have you had it for years?

A few years ago my daughter, about four and top heavy in the head, as kids are of this age,  leaned over a series of concrete steps while playing. Gravity took over and her entire upper torso was behind the force that impacted the bridge of her nose on the edge of the step. She was not a happy camper and had a couple of nasty abrasions that lasted for a week or so. She would have nothing to do with me working on her, so we took her to see Dr. Steven Hall in Issaquah. He graciously squeezed us in late in the day and found no restrictions, to our relief. I leave no stone unturned when it comes to my daughter and I slept better knowing she would not potentially be scarred with a facial compression that would surface later in her life.

Impacts to the face are not unlike a multiple car pileup. Each car involved can accrue some damage, some cars more damaged than others and it takes work to repair both human injuries and car damage. Let’s take an example of a soft ball hitting the face. The ball hits the cheek bone and the mid nose. There will be damage to the nose cartilage (not shown). Using the multiple car pileup analogy, we move from behind the nose moving deeper into the head. That means the next bone will be the ethmoid bone and the vomer (from the Latin meaning ‘plow,’ cause it is shaped like one) and the maxillae. These bones connect with other bones, leading to the bone at the back of our head, called the occiput.

Face mouth schematic  Face shot 1 copy Any or all of these of these structures can get compressed with the right impact and can be assessed, accessed and treated. In fact, if we take our anatomy a step further, the occiput then shares an intimate  and direct connection with the tailbone, or sacrum, via the tough fascial membrane surrounding our nervous system. Impacts to the face can affect the biodynamics of the sacrum and sacroiliac joint and into the hips.

If you have never had mouth work, or if this has raised your curiosity, consider a treatment. It can be very relaxing for these structures are intimately in relationship with our head and nervous system. You may be surprised at the results. If you have history of impact here, it might be contributing to your lack of clarity, tension or possibly pain somewhere in the body, often not in your head. Migraines, sinus issues, headaches, or recurring neck issues may be present. If you are a massage therapist reading this, consider studying this region of the body and getting your intraoral endorsement. It is an essential part of the body to both assess and treat. Massage Therapy in Issaquah offers treatment in mouth care for both acute injuries and chronic ones.


face shot 2 copy

Potential compression sites where bones come join together

Potential compression sites where bones come join together.


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