A Neuro Exercise for Jaw Issues
Alright, today we’re going to be going through a specific exercise for the trigeminal nerve.
Now, most people don’t know what the trigeminal nerve is, but it is incredibly large and incredibly important in so many different things related to the head, neck, and face.
So the trigeminal nerve supplies sensory information from the skin of the face. It also helps the muscular activity of your chewing muscles. When you bite down, those are called muscles of mastication. So what I want to make sure that you understand is that you need to do some pre and post-testing to make sure that this exercise is appropriate for you.
Let’s say you have regular headaches on the right side, maybe your jaw moves oddly whenever you bite down or open your mouth. Maybe you have had temporomandibular issues – TMJ or TMD diagnosed in the past. If you fit into any of those categories, or just with some testing, let’s say you take a tissue and you divide your face in half and you actually test the sensation, you notice that you have some differences side to side, it would be worth testing this particular exercise to see if it makes a difference for you.
Now, for a lot of people who don’t have head and neck issues, you may find that doing a trigeminal neuromechanic drill, trigeminal nerve glide, is also helpful for just general movement.
So before we get started, I’d like for you to either test your head and neck, test your jaw or test some gentle movements, like head and neck range of motion, test your flexion and extension, see what happens in your spine, hamstring length, Etc.
And, after you’ve done that, we’ll go ahead and do the exercise.
So here is how it is set up.
This is one of the more funny-looking exercises that I teach. So you might not want to do this one at work, but if you have to you know, go in the bathroom or something. Mainly because of what we’re going to be doing with our jaw. So what you do is you’re going to begin with a nice tall posture, you’re going to start off and think about your upper neck. You’re going to do an upper cervical flexion and then you’re going to do an upper cervical lateral flexion away from the side, you’re working on. So in this particular case, I’m going to be working on my right side.
Now, after I’ve done my little tucking motion, my tilt, I want to open my jaw and move it away from the side I’m trying to effect.
So in this case, since I’m working on my right side, my jaw is going to move to the left.
So tuck, the chin, upper cervical tilt, open the jaw, move it down and away.
Now we’re going to add in full neck flexion. So we’re going to bend our head further a little bit more.
You will begin to feel tension building up in the back of your neck, but also in the area around the jaw.
The area around the jaw is where we want to target. So you should feel free to adjust your positioning so that you feel most of the tension around your jaw or just above your cheekbone back by your ear.
All right, so the actual exercise looks like this.
Once I’m in position, I’m doing small nodding motions to create a little tractioning effect on the trigeminal nerve.
After you’ve done 5 to 10 repetitions of that, come back up, retest whatever it is that was bothering you. If it’s sensation, retest sensation.
If it’s how your jaw moves, retest your jaw, maybe bite down or open the jaw. If you were testing your hamstrings, retest.
See what the result is, and then try it again on the opposite side of the body.
The main thing to understand here is that
because the jaw is very close to the brain, because there’s a lot of real estate dedicated to the trigeminal nerve in your brainstem, this particular exercise can be quite impactful. So don’t do it hard. Do just a few repetitions. Keep it nice and light. Make sure that when you come back up that you’re not dizzy. You don’t feel weird. You don’t have any odd pain. You want to be very consistently gradual in your approach to adding any tension in this particular exercise.
So the quick review. Tuck the chin, tilt away, open the jaw, slide it away, flex the head and neck down, and then do very small nodding movements in order to get that nerve mobilization.