Updated: Apr 7, 2021
We are all familiar with low back pain, shoulder tightness and neck discomfort, but have you ever thought about your jaw muscles? People with tight jaw and facial muscles may experience neck pain, teeth grinding, headaches, migraines and more. This can come from muscle tightness, physical trauma and/or be related to emotional and mental stress. These muscles are often used in our daily lives and need treatment just like the rest of our body.
What is intraoral massage?
Intraoral massage is working on the muscles inside of the mouth. The lower jaw is completely separate and is able to move to horizontal, vertical, retract and protract. Some of the primary muscles focused that allow these movements are the: masseater, lateral/medial Pterygoid, and digastric muscles. But these muscles cannot move without the trigeminal nerve, the 5th cranial nerve and largest of the 12. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensory information in the face and responsible for the movement of the jaw muscles. If this nerve gets impaired due to tight fascia and muscles in the face and jaw it can cause pain and other issues. After receiving this work you may notice a feeling of ease when opening your mouth, increased space in the TMJ, and wider range of motion in the jaw.
When is intraoral massage beneficial?
· Chronic jaw pain
· Teeth grinding
· Limited range of motion within jaw
· Postural dysfunctions such as forward head posture
· Injuries or strains in the jaw
· Clicking or popping jaw
· Pain from TMJ disorder
· Lock jaw
· After or before dental surgery
How is Intraoral massage performed?
Intraoral massage is done lying face up (supine) on the table. Gloves are worn by the massage therapist when working inside the mouth for sanitation purposes. Client can still use their hands, or more specifically their fingers, to express levels of intensity by giving a rating of 1-5. This still allows communication of the client and the therapist when performing intraoral work. These muscles can be sensitive, but just like any other bodywork the therapist can adjust the pressure to make sure the client is comfortable.
One of the best ways to work on jaw muscles without intraloral massage is using cups on the face, jaw, and neck. By applying oil to the face, a seal is created to move the cups or do range of motion. I prefer fractionated coconut to not clog the pores. This can be done by applying light suction of the cupping device and moving along the muscles. When doing this it is encouraged to move up the face to create an uplifting effect, which can make you look happier. Another effective technique for the jaw is to place the cup on the muscles and open and close your mouth to work out the muscle tissue. Be careful to not leave the cups on too long or do too much cupping as it is possible for your face to mark.
What are the benefits of facial cupping?
· Stimulates lymphatic system
· Increases blood flow to tissue
· Helps release adhesions in face
· Relax muscles and facia surrounding the face and skull
· Create space for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Can anyone perform intraoral work?
To work inside the mouth as a massage therapist in Washington you need to be certified by your department of health and take 16hrs hands on continuing education in person. They will then give you an endorsement on your license. If you’re a healthcare practitioner and want to learn what your requirements are be sure to check with your state department of health and profession specific criteria.
The takeaway of intraoral massage
Intraoral massage is an extremely beneficial modality that can provide benefits not only to the jaw but the neck, head, and upper thoracic region. These muscles are constantly used in our daily lives for eating, breathing, and any facial movements. These muscles are just like any other in the body and may need repeated work on occasion and always stay in their best shape with proper self-care.