TMJ & The Pelvic Floor
Written by: Caroline Hodges, PTA, Ortho & Pelvic Floor Therapist at The Green Room PT
Do you often notice yourself clenching your jaw throughout the day, grinding your teeth at night or have TMJ dysfunction? There is a HUGE connection between jaw tension and pelvic floor tension, which often results in tailbone pain/painful sitting, pain with intercourse, overactive bladder, and constipation but can also be identified through these sources of jaw tension/dysfunction.
First, let’s briefly touch on breathing- I recently wrote a blog post on this subject, so please go check it out on our website if you haven’t! The diaphragm contracts and relaxes to facilitate breathing; more specifically, it descends as we inhale filling the space with air and ascends as we exhale, decreasing that space. The vocal cords inside the larynx is the outlet above the diaphragm that regulates pressure, along with the trachea, while the pelvic floor and its subsequent openings are outlets below it that work to regulate pressure.
Most important to note is they all work together for pressure management, contracting and relaxing as we breathe, speak, and exercise. They’re also linked through the vagus nerve. Which is stimulated by the diaphragm with every breath we take, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which shifts the body from a state of stress to relaxation. The more the diaphragm moves, the greater recruitment of the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system, which is crucial to our healthy function! Therefore, holding anger, stress, fear, and anxiety in a tight jaw, closes and restricts movements of both outlets and heightens our stress response, increasing tension and often pain.
It’s crucial that these outlets function properly in order to work to release stresses of the body, both mental and physical. The pelvic floor must have the mobility to both contract AND lengthen in order to facilitate bowel and bladder functions. If they’re too tight, they can lead to overactive bladder, constipation, painful sitting/tailbone pain, and pain with intercourse. The vocal cords work to allow us to communicate with one another and express emotion. If we clench the jaw, hold a lot of tension through the mouth, and hold back strong feelings and stresses, it can create headaches, TMJ, and poor pressure regulation, leading to pelvic floor dysfunction. Both vessels are vital to eliminate toxins and stress as well regulate our breathing and intra-abdominal pressure.
So what can we do to improve the health of these areas?
Make time for them!
Tip 1) Throughout the day, get your tongue off the roof of your mouth and open your jaw! An easy way to do this is by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Constantly keeping the mouth in a closed, tense state increases both jaw and pelvic floor tension.
Tip 2) Set aside time for both emotional and pelvic floor release and relaxation. For the pelvic floor this means giving yourself rest breaks to pee and poop whether at home or at work. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, rectum, and for some people, the vagina. If you neglect to give yourself time to relax and eliminate throughout the day, it creates pelvic floor dysfunction. On the opposite end, diaphragmatic breathing and humming throughout the day is a great discrete way to use the vocal cords and diaphragm. Singing in your car, or talking out any bottled up feelings of stress and emotional trauma with a safe source are also excellent sources of downtraining the nervous system.
Tip 3) Give these areas tactile attention. You can touch and massage the jaw, especially the masseter muscle to check for tenderness and tension. Similarly, you can touch and massage around your perineum and tailbone to increase pleasure and reduce tension. Does upward pressure sitting on a firm surface or bike seat hurt? Stretch out for hips and pelvic floor!
Tip 4) Give us a call! Our team can help to assess your symptoms and create a tailored approach to help you heal so you can get back to living life without pain and limitations. There are truly an endless number of causes for pelvic floor dysfunction, many of which are daily habits that we’re unaware of, so listen to your body and let us help you heal!
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