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Episode 279: TMJ/Jaw Health for Overall Health – Part 2

Video Highlights

- Part 1 Review.
- Precise motor control matters.
- Easy to follow drill advancements.

Today we’re going to look at Part Two of our happy jaw exercises.

Last week we took a look at some basic jaw mobility exercises that were very simple. Just lateral glides, anterior/posterior glides and we talked a lot about the reason that we start with precision motor control exercises for the jaw. This area can be really sensitive. It’s got lots of nerves in here so it can create a lot of pain, a lot of weird, clicking, popping sounds if you have problems.

https://zhealtheducation.com/episode-278-tmj-jaw-health-for-overall-health-part-1/

We also said if you have big issues, make sure that you clear the exercises that we’re going to give you with your healthcare provider. The same thing holds true for today. We’re actually going to challenge the jaw a little bit more just with some isometric exercises.

As I said, in the previous video, if you have jaw issues, these may be beneficial for you, but you need to test them. We also said if you don’t have jaw issues, but you are into strength training, athletics. We are finding out more and more about the tongue and jaw and its influence on movement, so I consider jaw either pre-habilitation or training or rehabilitation, all of it’s important.

So again, we’re going to continue on that theme because the jaw is related to so much of what we do. It influences the cranial nerves, it influences the throat, swallowing, talking, eating, and then from there it kind of cascades down, particularly into the upper extremity. We also see some research looking at jaw issues showing up, causing back problems. There’s a lot of stuff that can develop from here, so we want to make sure that it’s healthy, that it’s moving well and that it’s strong.

Now that we have some mobility restored from last week, we’re going to talk about: How do I maintain that by increasing some strength? The exercises I’m going to show you, again, are very simple. We’re going to focus on great motor control meaning great precision of movement, so you may need to do these exercises in a mirror to begin with. They’re not going to require your jaw to move into big, strange positions for now.

We’re going to keep the jaw actually in a nice, fairly neutral position and we’re just going to be doing isometric exercises where we’re giving pressure to the jaw, while maintaining it in a good position.

Basics are very simple. We’re going to start off, again, finding our jaw. Place fingers on the cheek, roll your fingers all the way back to just in front of the ear and down slightly. Do that on both sides, open and close and you should be feeling the “ball,” if you will, of the joint, rolling underneath your fingers. Like last week, go ahead and retest and see if the joint is moving at the same speed, if one’s starting before the other. So you’re just looking for symmetries and a-symmetries and again, that is very good to do in front of a mirror because it may feel symmetric to your hands, but to your eyes you’d go, “Oh wow,” it’s opening in this very kind of strange manner.

We want to try to, over the course of time, develop a nice, symmetric opening and closing of the jaw. Again, assuming that you’ve already worked through the mobility exercises, let’s talk about strengthening. First thing that we’re going to do, is we’re going to touch or palpate one side of the jaw.

Woman happily taking a big bite out of an apple while holding it with both hands

Now, we’re going to start off with lateral isometrics. In order to do that, I’m going to take and put pressure against the opposite side of the lower jaw and I’m simply going to press in with my hand. My teeth are almost together. I’m going to press across with my hand and just hold my jaw in this position. Again, I’m paying attention to what’s occurring in this joint and then I’ll switch and do the same thing. You want to see if there’s any kind of significant strength difference side to side, if one side’s harder to hold than the other.

Again, I’m maintaining my jaw in a neutral position. Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to challenge it into opening and closing. So now I’ll put my hands or thumbs underneath my chin and I will try to open it to resistance and then from there, I usually will grab here or, if you’re comfortable, you can actually grab your teeth or here and you’re going to have your start with your teeth about a half inch open and then try to close the lower jaw. Again, against resistance of your hand. All that sounds really simple, but now we’re going to add two complications to it. We’re going to add in tongue position.

What we’re going to go to next is we’re going to go back to the lateral exercise. Again, I’m touching here and I’m touching here. I’m on the top of the jaw where the joint is and I’m on my lower jaw, close to my chin. In this particular position, if I push across with my fingers, I’m actually pushing from my left to my right, so my jaw has to go to my left. I’m going to actually take my tongue and I’m going to emulate with my tongue what my jaw is doing. My tongue will go into my cheek as I add in the finger pressure. Now, both my tongue and jaw are pushing in the same direction.

We’re going to hold that for six seconds and then we’re going to relax. Then we’ll repeat in the opposite direction, so I switch, tongue goes into this cheek, I add the resistance of the jaw so now I have tongue and jaw pushing in the same direction.

We’re going to emulate that in all four movements. Next, if I am opening against resistance, I am going to try to lower my jaw against the resistance of my hand. I’m actually going to put my tongue in the bottom of my mouth as I do that and as I close, I’m going to put my tongue up against the roof of my mouth, again as I’m trying to pull my lower jaw up. In this particular set, you’re now doing, tongue is moving in the same direction as the lower jaw.

All right, we’ve done isolated movements against six seconds, six seconds, six seconds, six seconds. We then added in the tongue into each of those movements, so that’s another six seconds. For our third set then, the tongue is going to go in the opposite direction.

This is a little bit of a weird experience for a lot of people. You just have to think it through. If I’m going to come here and my fingers are on my left side of my jaw, now my tongue is going to go into my right cheek. Now I’m pushing across from my left to my right. If I was touching the right side, my tongue goes to the left cheek. Most people find that this coordination between moving the jaw one way and tongue in the opposite direction is much more challenging and will cause you to work harder to stabilize the jaw.

I’m going to recommend that you press with a little lest intensity with the hands as you start into that third round.

The idea is, literally six seconds per exercise, three different sets: One with the tongue in neutral, one with the tongue moving in the same direction as the lower jaw, and one with the tongue moving in the opposite direction. Once you’re done with all that, you can come back and retest your jaw opening and closing and a lot of times what you’ll find is that it’s more symmetric, much more comfortable and much more relaxed.

Combining these two blogs, I want you to focus on your mobility drills until you have a nice, comfortable ability to move the jaw in a nice, full range of motion without any kind of discomfort and then as you achieve that, start adding in some of these strength drills. It will be incredibly important for maintaining stability going forward. That’s it. If you have any questions about this, please let me know.

Otherwise, good luck building a happier jaw.

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