Jaw Pain and TMJ

Jaw Pain and TMJ
By Susan Berkley

TMJ is an abbreviation for the “temporomandibular joint”. I know it’s hard to say, so if you can’t pronounce it, think “jaw joints.” The TMJs are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. They allow you to perform such functions as opening and closing your mouth, chewing and speaking. Actor Bert Reynolds suffered from an unusually severe case of TMJ during his much-publicized split with Loni Anderson.

According to the website www.tmj.org TMJ diseases and disorders refer to a set of conditions, manifested by pain in the jaw and associated muscles and limitations in the ability to make the normal movements of speech, facial expression, eating, chewing, and swallowing.

I’m writing about TMJ this month because from time to time I suffer from this syndrome. Fortunately my symptoms are mild. But hopefully what I’ve learned about TMJ can help you, or someone you know who suffers from this painful condition.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health indicate that 10.8 million people in the United States suffer from TMJ problems.
Medical research has not yet defined all the causes of the various TMJ /disorders.

At first I thought my TMJ symptoms were because of all the talking I do. But then I learned that TMJ is primarily a stress related or psychosomatic condition. Contrary to what many people believe, “psychosomatic” does not mean you are “making up” your symptoms. They are very real and can be very painful. Psychosomatic medicine studies the connection between the mind and body and especially how stress lowers our resistance and facilitates disease.

On a recent trip to Brazil, I spoke with Dr Marcia Sgrinhelli, (pronounced: skrin-YELL-y) a dentist specializing in psychosomatic medicine. According to Dr. Sgrinhelli, people generally deny goodness in their lives and mistakenly and unconsciously attack what brings them the most happiness, growth and success. This unconscious fight against our own well-being causes our muscles to contract.

For some 10 million of us, the focal point of the muscle tension is in our jaw. If we don’t accept the consciousness of our resistance to goodness and treat the source of the problem, the underlying tension can cause the uncomfortable symptoms of TMJ. Dr. Sgrinhelli really gave me some food for thought.

The other day, while teaching a class I felt the sudden, sharp and familiar pain of TMJ. Dr. Sgrinhelli’s words immediately came to mind. “People generally deny goodness in their lives and mistakenly and unconsciously attack what brings them the most happiness, growth and success.” Teaching my voice classes is one of the most pleasurable things I do. I love helping others and it’s enormously beneficial to me as well. So why am I resisting doing good for myself and others? Apparently, the reason why didn’t matter. As soon as I asked myself the question, the pain disappeared– immediate proof of the connection between body and mind!

Gently massaging the jaw joints or placing a warm washcloth on the sore spots can also help release the muscle spasms.

Of course if you experience pain in your jaw (or anywhere else in your body) you should consult your doctor or dentist.. I hope that reflecting on these questions will help you as much as they have helped me.


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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.greatvoice.com

Copyright 2012, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. Jaw Pain and TMJ.

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