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How Massage Therapy Can Help Relieve TMJD

How Massage Therapy Can Help Relieve TMJD 

Your jaw hurts. It clicks and pops. You might not be able to open your mouth all the way. It might even temporarily lock up out of the blue. That’s TMJD. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a common problem, but many people who experience it don’t recognize what’s causing their symptoms. And if they do, they might not realize that it’s an easily treatable problem. 

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for TMJD symptoms. If you think that you might be suffering from TMJD, keep reading to learn more about the condition and how you can get some relief. 

What are the main symptoms of TMJD? 

  • Jaw tenderness and jaw joint pain 
  • Aching around or in the ear (earache) 
  • Tooth pain 
  • Facial pain 
  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide 
  • Trouble chewing 
  • Pain while chewing 
  • Clicking and popping when opening the jaw, chewing or yawning 
  • Headaches 
  • Stiff, sore neck muscles 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • An uneven or uncomfortable bite 

What causes TMJD? 

The temporomandibular joint is where your lower jaw connects to your skull. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a general term for a number of problems affecting that joint and the associated soft tissue. 

One of the major sources of TMJD is psychological stress: the majority of TMJD cases are linked to clenching or grinding the teeth. Another common culprit is poor posture. Slouching and “head-forward posture” are hard on the structures of your jaw. 

TMJD occurs most frequently in women 30–50 years old. During the pandemic, health providers have noted that frequent and prolonged wearing of masks has also had an effect on the number of people being diagnosed with TMJD. 

The lower jaw has rounded ends called condyles. These condyles are responsible for gliding in and out of the joint socket when we move our jawbones (mandible). Similar to other important joints throughout the body, the condyles are covered by cartilage and separated by a small disk to absorb shock. When the cartilage and disks are worn down, the movement of the jaw becomes rougher, resulting in a cracking or crunching sensation, inflammation and pain. 

Other potential causes of temporomandibular joint dysfunction: 

  • Arthritis 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Poor jaw alignment caused by missing or loose teeth 
  • Incorrectly fitted dentures 
  • Habits like biting fingernails or frequent gum-chewing 
  • Infections in the jaw 
  • Jaw injuries 
  • Tumors 
  • Sleep apnea (sleep apnea is known to trigger teeth grinding during periods of apnea) 

How is TMJ diagnosed? 

Most people who get an official TMJD diagnosis receive it from their dentist, often during a routine checkup. Dentists don’t just look after your teeth and gums; they’re also trained to recognize issues and abnormalities of the whole mouth and jaw. They can spot problems with your bite, abnormal muscle tone, or evidence that you’ve been grinding your teeth—all of which can point to TMJD. 

Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your dentist might recommend you wear a night guard or refer you to a dental specialist. But a lot of TMJD cases don’t require appliances or complicated dental work. Increasingly, dentists are referring their TMJD patients to massage therapists for treatment. 

But you don’t have to wait until your next teeth cleaning to start feeling better. If you’re suffering from TMJD symptoms, you can make an appointment with an RMT even without a formal diagnosis. Massage therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that can help relieve the symptoms of TMJD, and in many cases even address the root causes. (Of course, you should still see your dentist regularly, and always have severe pain checked out by a dentist or physician). 

How does massage help with TMJD? 

If you’ve been suffering through the pain and tension of TMJD for months or even years, a TMJ massage can feel like a miracle. Because the muscles involved are so small and close to the surface, there’s a good chance you’ll notice significant results after just a single treatment.  

In a typical TMJD treatment, your RMT will begin by working on your neck, back, and upper chest. They’ll target the trapezius, rhomboids, levator scapulae, splenius muscles, and suboccipitals. 

Then they will move on to the affected muscles of your face and jaw. When they’re working extra-orally (on the outside of your mouth), your RMT will pay particular attention to the masseter and temporalis muscles. 

Extra-oral massage of the face, neck, and head can be very effective. It’s relaxing, comfortable, and altogether a pleasant experience (even if your therapist finds a few trigger points). 

But if you’re serious about treating your TMJD, we recommend going a little deeper. That’s right: we’re talking about getting massaged inside your mouth. 

Intra-oral massage is not what most people think of when they picture a massage. Lying on your back communicating to your therapist through pre-arranged hand signals as they use a gloved finger to apply gentle targeted pressure to a tiny muscle under your tongue is certainly less relaxing than the average back massage. 

But what it lacks in glamour, intra-oral massage more than makes up in effectiveness. Working on the inside of your mouth allows your RMT to access small but important muscles like the medial and lateral pterygoids. They will apply pressure and make small movements on the inside of your cheeks and at the back of your mouth. 

We won’t lie: having the inside of your mouth massaged is a sensation that takes some getting used to. To help you feel comfortable, your massage therapist will talk you through the treatment before they begin, and you’ll work out a way to communicate. They’ll let you set the pace, and give you plenty of breaks. 

A Quick Tip to Relieve TMJ Discomfort at Home

A good RMT will offer you homecare advice as part of your treatment. This is especially useful for people with TMJD, because there are some really wonderful self-massage techniques you can use between professional treatments.

Here’s one that you can do right now at your desk: 

Working on both sides of your face at the same time, place your thumbs (or your index and middle fingers) in the hollows right under your cheekbone, close to the side of your face. Open your jaw and apply gentle pressure. With your jaw closed (but not clenched!), make little circles along the edge of your cheekbones until you find the spots that feel good. You can also slowly work downwards toward your jawline, making little circles or gently “stripping” along the masseter muscle. Make sure you work down towards your jaw, not up towards your cheekbones! You should feel some pressure and may experience a little bit of tenderness, but if you feel excessive pain or discomfort, stop immediately and contact your doctor or dentist. 

You deserve to feel better!  Give massage therapy a try by visiting one of our student clinics in Edmonton and Calgary. Each appointment includes an assessment, a 60-minute massage from one of our talented and qualified students, and a short homecare consultation—all for only $35. Book online today 

massage for tension headaches

How Massage Therapy Can Help Solve Tension Headaches 

For many people, a tension headache acts something like a “check engine” light: it’s your body telling you that something is off balance, and you should stop and pay attention.  

Anything that puts extra strain on the muscles of the neck, back, shoulders, and face can be the culprit. Not enough sleep, too much caffeine, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, dehydration; all these things can cause stress in your body and contribute to a tension headache.  

Massage on its own can be effective treatment for relieving the cause and symptoms of tension headaches. By both addressing the stressors and emotional issues causing the headaches and by targeting tense muscles and joints, massage by a great Registered Massage Therapist may help you kick your tension headaches to the curb for good. 

I get headaches all the time. Are they tension headaches?  

While only your physician can officially diagnose the type of headache that’s plaguing you, a good look at your activities and habits and the symptoms of your headache can narrow it down. A tension headache usually presents the following symptoms: 

  •       The sensation of tightness around your head 
  •       Mild to moderate pain 
  •       Pressure in the forehead, sides of the head, or back of the head 
  •       Tender shoulder and neck muscles 
  •       Tender scalp 

Tension headaches are a very common type of headache. They fall into two categories: chronic or episodic. If you suffer from tension headaches for 15 or more days each month for at least three months, you are likely to be suffering from chronic tension headaches. Episodic tension headaches are less frequent and tend to last for a shorter time (anywhere from half an hour to a full week). Regardless of the length of time, tension headaches are no fun!  

There are some symptoms that could indicate a more severe condition. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor right away: 

  • The headache comes on quickly and is severe 
  • The headache is paired with a stiff neck, mental fogginess or confusion, double vision, fever, seizures, weakness or numbness or slurred speech. 
  • The headache starts after a head injury and gets worse rather than better over time 

Why do we get tension headaches? 

There’s no single cause of tension headaches, and what triggers this kind of pain varies from person to person. However, the most common causes include physical and emotional stress and postural dysfunction. 

Can massage therapy help? 

By increasing blood flow and soothing inflamed tissue, massage therapy can be just as effective as pain-relieving drugs to reduce and eliminate muscle tension, neck pain, headache pain and of course, the symptoms of a tension headache. Unlike popping a pill, which only temporarily stops the discomfort, massage therapy can address the root physiological cause. An RMT will be able to offer a few different options for your massage treatments. 

A qualified RMT has been trained in an accredited program that has covered massage therapy in depth. This includes identification of muscle groups, fascia, pressure points, joints and more. They know how to create a personalized treatment for you, based on your symptoms, sensitivities, and health history. They can also teach you ways to prevent or treat your headache symptoms at home, such as stretches and self-massage techniques. 

How does an RMT treat tension headaches? 

Relaxation massage 

Relaxation massage doesn’t get the respect it deserves. A good relaxation massage is a treat; it feels so good, it’s easy to forget that it is also therapeutic. In fact, nothing beats a tension headache like a relaxation massage!  

Relaxation massage, sometimes called Swedish massage, is very effective for reducing tension headache symptoms because of the way it affects the parasympathetic nervous system and balances the levels of key hormones. Massage therapy boosts your levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin (one of the reasons why you feel relaxed and sleepy during and after a massage!). Massage also reduces the level of cortisol in your body. Since cortisol (a stress hormone) is a major contributor to tension headaches, this can make a huge difference for your symptoms.  

Deep tissue massage 

Your RMT can use specialized deep tissue massage techniques to treat the muscles of your upper back, neck, head, and face—the trapezius and suboccipital muscles in particular. For many people, these two muscle groups are the ones that hold onto the brunt of the tension in their body. The suboccipitals are the muscles that create that feeling of having a tight band around your head during a tension headache. Reducing tension and adhesions in these muscles can go a long way towards solving your headache woes. 

Facial Massage 

Most RMTs will incorporate a facial massage into a tension headache treatment. Their main target will be the masseter muscle on either side of your jaw. The masseters connect your jaw to your cheekbones—they are the ones you flex when you clench your jaw. They’re powerful; in fact, by weight, the masseters are the strongest muscles in the body.  

These are often the first muscles to tighten up and trigger a headache. Masseters become (and remain) tense because of teeth grinding (bruxism), conscious tensing of the jaw, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), or during periods of sleep apnea. For some sufferers, releasing the tension in these muscles will be enough to chase a tension headache away.  

When massaging your face, your RMT will apply very gentle pressure and use small, precise strokes. The muscles of the face are small and close to the surface, so it doesn’t take much to have a huge impact. 

Trigger Point Release 

Trigger points are tight, painful adhesions within your muscles and fascia. They are very tender to the touch, and often create what’s called “referred pain”—pain that shows up elsewhere along the muscle. Activating a trigger point can cause tingling, prickling, burning, numbness, and even cause the muscle to twitch.  

If you’re suffering from headaches caused by tension in your shoulders, neck, head, and face, there’s a good chance you’ve got trigger points in at least a few of those muscles and would benefit from a trigger point treatment. 

Trigger point therapy is a technique that your RMT will incorporate into your therapeutic massage treatment as they go. When they locate a trigger point, they will apply a combination of techniques and massage strokes to deactivate it. If you’ve never had trigger point work done, you’ll be amazed by the immediate relief it can offer. But be warned: trigger point therapy can be uncomfortable and even painful while it’s happening, and may cause some short-term soreness.  

If you’re suffering from tension headaches, why don’t you give massage therapy a try by visiting one of our student clinics in Edmonton and Calgary? Each appointment includes an assessment, a 60-minute massage from one of our talented and qualified students, and a short homecare consultation—all for only $35. Book online today! 

Benefits of Geriatric Massage

From Reducing Pain to Improving Balance, Massage Has Big Benefits for Older Adults

To get older is a privilege. But it’s not always comfortable—years of adventure take their toll on the body and on the mind. As the decades add up,are so do the aches and pains. 

To care for a person as they get older is a privilege, too. Working with elderly clients is a rewarding and challenging opportunity for thoughtful, compassionate massage therapists. Massage therapy offers a wide range of benefits for geriatric patients. 

And because the Canadian population is aging, the demand for RMTs who have experience treating older clients is growing. As of 2020, almost 20% of all Canadians were 65 years old or older, and this percentage is expected to continue rising. Many of these people have been getting massages regularly for years, while some are new to massage but likely to seek it out as their needs change. 

What is geriatric massage and what is it good for? 

Older people visit their massage therapist for the same reason as everyone else does: to maintain or improve their physical and mental health so that they can enjoy a full life and do the things they love. 

Geriatric massage therapy is the modification of fundamental massage therapy principles, techniques, and treatments to meet the specialized needs of older clients. 

Most statistical research (like the census) defines elderly people or seniors as people who are 65 years old or older. But anyone who’s ever had an 80-year-old power walker breeze past them on the trail knows that age is just a number. Nobody experiences aging in the same way, and how many candles there are on your birthday cake doesn’t determine how healthy you are. 

A well-trained massage therapist will assess and treat their clients based on their individual needs and circumstances. As people age—particularly from the mid-60s on—their bodies change and so do their massage therapy needs. 

Even healthy older people experience changes like decreased bone density and loss of muscle mass. To accommodate these needs, the RMT can adapt many parts of the treatment, including types of strokes, body positioning, pressure, and length of treatment. 

As people age, they also become more prone to certain conditions and illnesses. Again, a good massage therapist has the knowledge and the skills to adapt their treatment accordingly. For example, they will be able to position someone with osteoporosis so that they’re comfortable, and know what areas require lighter pressure. 

And the RMT’s expertise goes beyond just knowing how to adapt a treatment for comfort and safety. The general benefits of massage therapy can make a huge difference in quality of life for older people, and massage can treat many of the conditions associated with aging. 

Massage therapy can: 

  • Increase range of motion and joint mobility 
  • Reduce anxiety and depression 
  • Improve vitality and reported quality of life 
  • Decrease pain and stiffness and improve joint function in osteoarthritis patients 
  • Reduce agitation, stress, and restlessness and improve communication skills in patients with dementia 
  • Improved sleep and improved activities of daily living in patients with Parkinson disease 
  • Decrease pain and improve recovery after surgery, including cardiac surgery and joint replacement surgery 

The mental health benefits of therapeutic touch are well-documented too, especially for seniors who live alone or in long-term care facilities. 

Why pursue a career in geriatric massage? 

There are as many reasons to become a massage therapist as there are massage therapists in the world. The students who pass through our doors at MH Vicars School share their inspirations and goals with us, and they’re as specific and individual as our students are. But there are common threads, too: many students have experienced the transformative effects of good massage therapy for themselves and want to be able to share those benefits with others; many want to a flexible career that will allow them to balance work and family, and they all want an active career working face-to-face with others. 

But the number one thing that every MH Vicars student and graduate has in common is a powerful desire to help others. Massage therapy is about healing. Every day and every client is an opportunity to make a difference. 

Practicing geriatric massage can be challenging, and it takes patience and compassion. But it’s also immensely rewarding. Because older people tend to have more complex medical needs than younger clients, the benefits they get from massage can be especially important. By helping your client sleep better, regain their range of motion, or feel less isolated, you can transform their quality of life and help them stay active and independent. 

The population of Canadians who are 65+ are an incredibly diverse group, and as a result geriatric massage is a diverse field. Some RMTs will go out of their way to develop an elderly client base and regularly visit long-term care and supportive living facilities as well as marketing to an older client base. Other therapists keep their practices more general but have the training to provide safe and effective treatments for their elderly clients. 

Vicars students learn geriatric massage, as well how to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases that are common in older adults. Our students work with clients of all ages at our supervised practicum clinics on campus. The school also organizes clinic visits to long-term care facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. 

If you aspire to help others live their best lives—at every age—massage training may be the perfect fit for you. We offer a unique blended-learning format to make training with us as convenient as possible. Speak to our knowledgeable Admissions team at 1-866-491-0574, or  RSVP to our live virtual open house to learn more about our Edmonton and Calgary massage therapy school campuses. 

massage and mental health

From Depression to PTSD, Massage Therapists Can Play a Key Role in Mental Health Care

When your neck is stiff after too many hours working at the computer, or a long run left your hamstrings screaming, you pick up the phone and call your favourite RMT. After all, registered massage therapists are known for their power to heal our bodies. But their ability to improve our mental health is just as impressive. 

Massage therapy can provide significant mental health benefits, and even help people with serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Therapists and clients have always known that massage is good for our mental health, and the scientific evidence is catching up.Research has shown that massage therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in a wide variety of conditions; promote feelings of emotional well-being and promote a healthy mind-body connection; and even improve outcomes for people receiving medical treatment for serious mental health disorders. 

A Complementary Mental Health Treatment That’s Backed by Research 

Massage is not a replacement for specialized mental health care from a medical professional. But as an adjunct or complementary therapy, it can make a huge difference. Massage therapy can be added to almost anyone’s wellness regimen, whether they’re suffering from a mental illness, experiencing psychological effects of a physical condition, or just feeling run down by the stresses of day-to-day life. 

Our minds and our bodies are connected, and that means that what’s happening with our mental health can affect the rest of our bodies and vice versa. Some mental illnesses have physical symptoms. And it’s common for people who are suffering from pain and physical ailments to experience depression, stress, and other mental health symptoms as a result. 

Many of the physical effects of massage therapy can improve mental well-being. These include lowering the heart rate and reducing blood pressure, reducing pain, improving sleep, and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the “rest and digest” response, it’s the calming counterpart to the “fight or flight” response).  

The impact of massage on hormone levels is particularly important. Massage increases serotonin which regulates mood and sleep, and reduces cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” All of this means that massage increases relaxation and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have even shown that massage increases blood flow in areas of the brain associated with mood and stress regulation. 

People with a wide range of mental health disorders and related conditions can benefit from including massage from a trained professional in their health routine. These include: 

Anyone experiencing symptoms of one or more of these issues should contact a medical professional. Before booking your massage, confirm with the RMT that they have been trained in how to treat your symptoms or condition. You can do this by asking them directly, or if you’re not comfortable with that you can ask friends or people on your health care team to recommend an RMT. 

Working Together to Create a Unique Treatment Plan 

The mental health benefits of massage therapy appear to be the result of a combination of both physiological and psychological factors. The intangible aspects of the therapeutic relationship between RMT and client—empathy, trust, and respect—seem to be particularly important. 

A good therapist will create a safe and calm environment for all their clients, where there’s no pressure, judgment, or stress. They will help their clients maintain healthy boundaries and will remain within their own scope of practice as well. This strong therapeutic relationship is the foundation every massage treatment, and there’s evidence that these intangible aspects of getting a massage—the empathy, trust, and respect between client and therapist—have tangible benefits for the client’s mental health. 

In some ways, treating a client for their mental health concerns is a lot like treating a client who comes in with physical aches and pains. A well-trained massage therapist never performs a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, they begin with an interview and an assessment and follow a customized treatment plan based on the client’s needs and goals. 

Effective massage treatment is always a collaboration between the client and the therapist, but this is especially true when it comes to treating clients who are struggling with their mental health. The RMT will work with the client to ensure that they create a safe and welcoming treatment environment. The therapist will explain the treatment plan before they begin and continue to check in throughout the appointment. They’ll also pay attention to non-verbal cues like muscle tension and breathing patterns to make sure that their client stays in their comfort zone. 

As a student at Vicars, you’ll be able to develop a rewarding career providing hands-on care to clients suffering from mental health disorders. As new research shows just how much of an impact massage therapy can have on a person’s mental and physical health, massage therapists will more in demand than ever before. If you’ve always wanted a career where you can really make a difference, speak to our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for our next online open house to learn more!