My own journey with TMJ and trigger point therapy
It was shortly after qualifying as a massage therapist that my boss at the surgery mentioned trigger points to me as he had heard they could be indicated in TMJ.
This passing comment set me on a path of discovery which was to shape my whole massage career. I discovered that trigger points in the trapezius, sub-occipitals and SCM are often the main cause of TMJ. These can then set up satellite or secondary trigger points in the masticatory muscles (temporalis, masseter,lateral pterygoid, and medial pterygoid).
For example, trigger points in the SCM can maintain secondary trigger points in the jaw muscles that are the cause of jaw issues and misalignment of the TMJ itself. When you treat the primary trigger points the secondary are often resolved also.
Over the next few months we began looking for volunteers amongst our TMJ patients to try massage for their condition. Everyone we asked was enthusiastic - after all what was the worst that could happen? They might just have a nice massage!
To all of our amazement the treatments began to make a real difference to people who had been through years of restriction and other symptoms.
One such person was a young woman called Vicky. A student at veterinary college, Vicky was under huge amounts of stress. When she first came to me she had a trismus. Her jaw was locked closed and at her first visit, she could only open her mouth the width of two fingers. She also suffered from severe headaches.
Vicky attended for massage and trigger point therapy weekly. In the beginning we could not treat the muscles of mastication due to the severely limited access, so treatment was focused around the neck and shoulders particularly the trapezius, sub-occipitals and SCM.
After her third appointment Vicky was very pleased to report that she could now open her mouth the width of four fingers. I respectfully pointed out that for most people to be able to do that they would need a flip top head! We then continued to treat these muscles for another three weekly appointments after which Vicky
reported that her jaw felt loose and comfortable and her headaches were gone.
Vicky continues to have monthly maintenance treatments to help prevent the problem returning. This story was just one in a series of success stories with this condition which set me off on my 'Trigger Point Journey'.
Tracey Kiernan is a former dental nurse turned massage therapist and teacher who specialises in the treatment of pain from her clinic in Liverpool. She now runs her own training organisation Blend Therapy and Training in Liverpool. Blend is dedicated to excellence in clinical and sports massage training, and offers a wide range of courses for the professional, and for self help.Visit www.blendtherapytraining.com for information on upcoming courses including Trigger Point Therapy for TMJ1 and Advanced Myofascial Techniques for TMJ2.
©Blend Therapy Training 2015