turn that frown... into a smile
identifying a common ailment
This article will help most of you, but it will particularly benefit those of you who have symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), general neck issues or tension headaches.
Let's talk about TMJ first. TMJ effects more people than one might think. The simplest definition of TMJ is that if your lower jaw doesn’t align just right with your upper skull, you have a dysfunction. Depending on the individual, this misalignment can vary to great degrees. This would explain why some of us have major pain and problems with orthodonture, leading us to seek medical help. Similarly, some us walk around with a jaw that clicks when we chew. This may be fun as a party trick, but it’s not a good long-term idea.
Many of you may also experience general neck pain or tightness. This particular issue is, as I see it in my practice, a challenge to treat because the symptoms that accompany the discomfort can be so varied. From posture anomalies to compromised vertibrae, the symptoms can be all over the place.
Tension headaches and their treatments are defined in this article, but can be described as pain in the muscles near the base of the skull that radiates down into the shoulders and back.
a usual suspect
One of the things I do to treat all of the above is Myofascia Release of the Platysma muscle. I'll bet you didn’t even know you had one! Let me explain…
The Platysma muscle is located on the front of your neck. It’s a flat, broad, sheet-like, superficial muscle that begins at the top of the pectoralis major and the deltoid muscles, and ends at the angle of the mandible (jaw bone). Think about your collar bone all the way over to your shoulder on both sides of the body. The function of this muscle is to lower the jaw, draw the lower lip and angle of the mouth downward and tense the skin on the front of the neck and chest. The facial nerve is innervated as well. Why do we have this muscle? Well, in some animals, it is useful in flicking off flies, shivering and raising hair. With people, this muscle aides in facial expressions, including anger and stress. If you have weakened or poor mobility around the pectoral muscles and shoulder muscles, forward head posture, shoulders rolled forward and kyphosis (rounding of the back), then the tension and pain in the platysma muscles will be exacerbated.
a useful treatment
Myofascia Release and gentle friction techniques lengthen and relax this area. If you are a patient of mine, you may already know what I’m referring to. I do this toward the end of a treatment or if I’m treating a patient with TMJ symptoms. When I stick my thumb into your collar bone and pull in the opposite direction, sometimes it's uncomfortable at first, but then the release happens. A similar result occurs when I apply friction under the lower jaw bone. These are some of the methods that release the Platysma.
Here’s something you can do on your own: The chin lift.
- Sit up straight or stand.
- Keeping your neck elongated, lift your chin upward.
- Close your mouth and lips as you relax into the stretch.
- Increase the stretch by moving your lower lip over your upper lip.
- Lower your head and repeat.
Lastly, avoid tension and anger. Life is too short and there are way too many cool things you could be focusing on.
peace and love,