By Mitsuko Ito, LMT, EFT Practitioner
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, basically the jaw, where you open and close your mouth. TMJD stands for TMJ dysfunction. Currently, there is no one established specialist for this specific body part, and different professionals (i.e., dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, massage therapists, physical therapists, and other healers) try in their own ways to help clients suffering from TMJD.
Causes of TMJD
Some propose the jaw being out of alignment as the cause of TMJD, and they try to correct the bite in order to solve TMJD. Some also say from experience that orthodontics and correcting the bite helps.
As much as I can see their point of view and argument, I suggest clients look at the issue of TMJD in the following way.
The muscles and ligaments connected to the joint need rest. If we hurt our knee, it needs tender, loving, care. In the same way, the TMJ needs some rest if it’s being impacted and hurt (TMJ pain). Due to its unique function, however, being used when speaking, eating, and breathing, it is extremely hard to be conscious of letting the TMJ rest. Orthodontic treatments are unique in that clients are compliant about not eating hard items biting into apples. We become more mindful of how we bite, what we bite. Thus it gives the jaw an opportunity to rest. That is why I tend to think that it’s not so much the teeth alignment correction, but rather how we are taking care of our jaw, that is helpful to the recovery of TMJD. Also, I tend to believe that energy imbalances or emotions affect our posture (dropped shoulder, forward head posture, etc.), which then helps build tension in the neck, shoulder, head, and, eventually, the jaw. So the jaw being out of alignment is rather the symptom and not the cause.
Another theory as to what causes TMJD is stress. I have asked several acupuncturists about this and to me it seems the most promising explanation.
There are also some publications and anecdotes that mention TMJD as an expression of unprocessed emotions such as anger and frustration, and in connection with a fifth (throat) chakra blockage.
Regardless of the cause, to help with the already presenting symptoms, I tell my clients with TMJD that “managing stress is the key for now.” For some, this is not what they want to hear, because they don’t know how to address and handle stress effectively, which is why their TMJD is progressing.
Some clients do, however, already know that correlation and/or are very responsive to that suggestion. Here is one such case from a client who found me through a Google search.
EFT for TMJD Case Study
A schoolteacher of younger elementary children contacted me for help with pain in his jaw (TMJ). When we had a phone conversation, the idea of stress as an underlying source of the TMJ pain had already appealed to him. When I asked if he was aware of any stress related to this pain, he said he was quite certain there was. He mentioned his jaw had first started aching in college when he was under great stress, and he had since known a pattern existed. However, he had not figured out what to do about it. And now that the pain had become chronic, he was finally in serious search.
My first suggestion for him was to get some acupuncture (as I have full faith in their pain treatment skills when nothing else works). I wanted to see how his jaw would respond to energy manipulation done by the needles, and wanted to gain a sense how this client would respond to acupuncture as an additional ongoing maintenance modality. We set up our appointment, leaving enough time for him to fit in a few acupuncture treatments in between.
When it was time for his appointment with me, I asked him how the acupuncture had been. He replied that the needles had greatly helped reduce the chronic tension and pain. He also mentioned, “Now I know what it means not to have that stress. I am now also aware exactly when stress is coming back–it starts hurting.”
From there, I taught the basics of EFT, telling him that this was a tool for him to address stress in any given moment as soon as he noticed it.
Then I asked him if there was any specific recent situation he could remember to bring up the stress response in his body. He said, “Oh, yeah,” and grimaced. He rated this stress as a SUD 8 at this time.
I asked him where he felt the stress in his body when he thought of the situation. The two noticeable physical sensations were “the tension right along the strip under my ear along my jaw” and “this shoulder tension at the top and across.”
We used the Setup statement:
Even though I have this pain in my jaw, I completely and fully love and accept myself.
After one round, the SUD level had reduced from 8 to 4.
We next worked on the pain across the top of the shoulder, which was also at a level 8 initially. This one reduced to 0 in one round.
We revisited the tension in the strip on his jaw and my client felt that there was none left. He was quite amused!
I mentioned to my client that this was the first level of EFT tapping and now he should be able to address the stress and sensations he was feeling at any given moment. By doing so, we were hoping to let his body process stress, instead of building it up in the body. I also informed him of the option of deeper subconscious EFT work. If the pattern of the job situation kept making the shoulder and jaw tense up, that could mean that there was an underlying pattern that EFT could help resolve.
Through this session, my client experienced how EFT can reduce stress emotionally AND physically in the moment. He felt empowered to have the tool to address symptoms at any stressful situation, as well as being presented with further healing options, if needed.