August 31, 2012

Jaw-neck stretching exercises | TMJ exercises and pain relief


I have been asked many times to put this sequence up on YT, but until now, I have demurred. Why? Because everyone looks a bit strange doing these—yet few exercise sequences will leave you feeling as good as this one will.

Your bite can be improved using this sequence, as can TMJ problems; the TMJ is the body's last opportunity to resolve forces acting on the spine. 

Neck tension plagues the majority of people who spend their time behind a computer (like your presenter and editor!); however, much discomfort in the neck--jaw area responds very quickly to some simple stretching exercises.

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Kit Laughlin:

Do I have to start again?

Paul: Yes start again.

Paul, look at me, look at me. You better still be rolling buddy or there's going to be trouble.

Paul: No problem.

Okay. This next seq, well, let me ask the group as a whole. How many of you really don't like taking your head and neck into extension? And be honest. Only one? You're lying. Okay. There's three, four. Now there's many more than that. I want to show you, through this jaw and face exercise sequence, just why it is that people don't like to take their heads and neck back. Basically it feels insecure, firstly, and secondly it hurts. That's why people don't like to do it. So the first test is how wide can you open your mouth? So we want... according to Travell and Simons, I'm quoting the great Travell and Simons now. We need to be able to fit three knuckles in between upper and lower jaws. So watch.

Minimum flexibility. Now we were doing this on one workshop once and this girl, I can't remember whether she was tall or short. I can't remember. She put a whole fist in her mouth. This fist just disappeared into her mouth and everyone just looked shocked; but she had very, very flexible jaw muscles. That's the point. So, what we want to do, just did you feel when you opened your mouth wide, could you feel what was actually restricting you there? So watch this sequence please. And we're going to do this now. We are going to stretch the muscles which, these muscles here.

The jaw muscles. Very powerful muscles with extremely good leverage. I think human jaws can generate four or 500 pounds per square inch, or it might be even higher. Anyway, lots of force. And people who grind their teeth at nighttime – is it brucellosis?


Bruxism, thank you. Brucellosis is some cattle disease I think from memory, anyway. If you do grind your teeth, these exercises are immensely helpful. Okay. So, sit up straight, everyone please. Now watch me do it first before doing it. So this is a Simon says thing. Wait for me to tell you please. So open your mouth wide.

So let me add some words to that. We open the mouth as wide as possible. You put two fingers of each hand on the lower jaw. You apply a gentle biting force to your fingers and don't let your fingers move. Then take a breath in, and on a breath out very carefully draw the jaw down. Now listen, be aware, this joint here, the temporomandibular joint is an extremely small joint. If you look at a skeleton, it will shock you. Am I right? It's about the size of your little finger nail. It's very small. What's more, it's a gliding sliding joint. And so the resultant force and what you experience as pain or tension at this joint here is nothing more than the sum of the forces of all the muscles we're going to stretch in the next few minutes. You want them soft and relaxed.

Okay. So, open the mouth wide everyone please. Place the fingers on the bottom jaw, and take the jaw down a little bit further. Your fingers will allow the jaw to come down a bit further. Can everyone feel that? And then once you're in that second position, apply a biting force to the fingers, but do not let the fingers move. Three, two, one, stop. Now, having done that, take a breath in, and gently draw the jaw down and keep it down. Do it slowly, please. And feel the immense sensation in this area here. Keep going down Bindu, further down. Breathe and relax. Okay. Then stop that. Bring the jaw back to its normal position, open the mouth wide again, and normal position, and relax.

Wait, we'll get there Jack. We'll get there. Now, the next action that I'd like you to practice is protraction, pushing the jaw forward. Paul, I'm just going to turn side on; so you might want to reframe on this. It's like this with the teeth separated, everything nice and straight, and then watch, pushing the jaw forward. And again, do this slowly please. You'll feel this is a completely different set of muscles that move the jaw forward. So, and relax. And now retraction the opposite direction. So, I'll turn side on again, Paul so that you can reframe on this. It's bringing the jaw straight back so, and feel it up in here and feel it inside the mouth.

And then last of all sideways movements, but not casually; done slowly and put a little bit of effort into it. So I'm talking about this and back to neutral. And. Like so many of our exercises, can you feel there's a difference between left and right? Going left and going right? You're starting to identify these fundamental jaw tension patterns.

Can't do it that way.

Can't hardly go? And the other way? When you watch a room full of people practicing these exercises, it does look as that we've been hitting the alcohol just a bit hard. So just quickly to go through them again, it's ... so I did two little contractions then, and then protraction, retraction, sideways, sideways and now Jack, any easier? Okay. Now, this is just a setup. A set up for experiencing the sensation of taking the head and neck backwards. But before we do that, let's do a neck rotation exercise because as I've mentioned elsewhere, many times, if you have anybody in your class who claims they have a neck problem, and who may indeed have a neck problem, the safest and most indirect way into helping someone with neck tension.

And if it's assuming that the neck problem is a result of neck tension is simply to encourage them to turn their head further. And we do it like this remember. Just let your hands rest lightly on your knees. Sit up nice and straight. Now straight here is not an aesthetic thing; it's trying to make the spine as long as possible. As in all of our rotations, we're trying to distribute the load over as many vertebrae as we can, rather than just a few. Do you remember that from the seated rotation? So, like this, everyone turn their head to the left and go as far as possible until you come to that barrier. Stop, let your shoulders drop down, take a breath in, and on a breath out turn the head further. Again, let the shoulders drop, take another breath in and turn the head further in the same direction. Try not to move your shoulders then come back to the centre position.

And if we've observed before, even though you've done that and seen that effect, it still won't allow you to go past that barrier when you go to the other side. So as far as possible, turn, stop, take a breath in, turn further, stop, breathe out, take a breath in and further still and come back to the front. And then this is the bit that I love the most. Go straight back to the last position and straight back to the last position without impediment. That's what we want. That's all you need to do to improve your neck rotation capacity. Now the last part of this sequence, or the last two parts. We open the mouth wide. I'll demonstrate this first and then I'll talk it through. We open the mouth wide, and then, and then close the teeth and immediately...

So we'll treat that as one sequence. That's backwards, forwards, and then back to the start position. So open the mouth wide, slowly tilt the head back. Rose, your teeth are still closed. Just checking. Open the mouth wide and slowly tilt the head back. Now feel how freely it moves by comparison to normal. And now once it's all the way back, don't let it move and slowly close your teeth. Now feel all that tension in the front of your neck? That's why you don't like to bend your neck back normally, because you're requiring of these muscles at the back here to stretch the front neck muscles, as well as move the head. And for many people's necks, that's too much work to ask and the muscles at the back of the skull, underneath the back of the skull, just tighten up or go into spasm.

So now open your mouth, bring the head forward. You can use your fingers to help you do that if you need to. Immediately close the teeth, and bring the chin as far forward as you can. And by all means, put a little bit of extra weight on the back of the head like this, to stretch the back of the neck, and then run your fingers over your forehead and lift the head up.

Now, for the people that don't like bending their head and neck backwards was that different that time? That is the secret, loosen these muscles here. In our culture people are extremely tight in the jaw muscles and extremely tight here. However, everyone can do this. And on a strength note, just an aside to this, we've tested this many times. If you lie with your head, just with the head and the back of the neck over the edge of a mattress for a bit of support, you'll find most of you will not be able to lift your head up 10 times from the face up position. But if you do the same thing with your head facing down, you'll have no trouble doing 10 or 20.

The muscles at the back of the neck are way stronger than the muscles at the front. But the muscles at the front are very tight. We want to get that into a better balance. And for many people strengthening the anterior neck muscles and stretching the posterior neck muscles, that's all they needed to do. And the way into that, the easiest way into that, is to encourage rotation first. Because if you watch the muscles in my neck, and if you hold this artificial alignment, one set of muscles is really doing the work of turning the head. The rest are involved in holding the alignment, but all are getting a stretch. A stretch or a strengthen.

Are there any questions on that sequence?


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