Are you noticing aches and pains in your jaw and pain in your pelvis? These pains might seem unrelated but there can be a surprising connection between jaw pain and pelvic pain! If you’re wondering how your pelvic and jaw pain are connected, first consider whether you may be struggling with a jaw problem that often accompanies pelvic floor dysfunction. TMD, short for Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, is a problem that causes pain in the jaw joint and its surrounding areas. Symptoms can include clicking, popping, lockjaw, difficulty opening the mouth, persistent earaches, tenderness above the jaw, and headaches. If you notice any of these symptoms in your jaw, you could be struggling with TMD.
So how can TMD symptoms in the head or jaw affect your pelvis? This is where unique lifestyle habits and postures, even those that you may be unaware of, come in to play. Our posture greatly affects the neck, jaw and pelvis because these body parts are linked through many connections of the spine. For example, if you tend to slouch or hunch over, your body may compensate by extending your neck, jaw and pelvis without you even realizing it. If you work sitting at a desk or using a computer for long periods of time, the muscles that flex the hip and the muscles in your neck become shortened. Certain types of posture and walking patterns can even cause one side of your pelvis to tilt more than the other. These imbalances can cause pain and tightness and can also lead to other movement dysfunctions up the body and into the jaw. Lifestyle habits influence our posture as well. Stress can cause clenching of jaw or pelvic muscles, thus increasing pressure and pain in one or both regions. Anxiety causes this reaction too and, over time, the jaw and pelvis may get stuck in a tense holding pattern together.
Now that you know how TMD and pelvic pain can be connected, it is easy to see how treating jaw pain can bring relief to the pelvis and vice versa. Here are some exercises and tips that the therapists at Rebalance Physical Therapy recommend to align your jaw and pelvic joints into their proper positions to help relieve your pain:
1. Perfect Your Posture: Become more aware of your posture and learn how to correct it. Make sure that your pelvis, spine, and head are lined up with one another to keep your body in better balance. A quick way to check your posture is to sit or stand up as usual and observe the positioning of your chin. Is it extending forward or upward in front of your shoulders? If so, stand or sit more upright while aligning the chin back and slightly inward. This is called a chin tuck. By making a conscious effort with this movement, you will keep your head, neck, and spine aligned through to the pelvis. After a little bit of practice, this new positioning should become easier and more natural. Improved overall posture puts much less stress on muscles, which helps alleviate pain.
2. Breathe, Relax and Rest: This little exercise is a great way to ease the tension from clenching the jaw and pelvic muscles to find some pain relief! Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breathe diaphragmatically (deeply and fully through your abdomen and belly, as opposed to shallowly through your chest). As you breathe diaphragmatically through your nose, try to relax your jaw and pelvic floor muscles. Allow your jaw and pelvic floor being to relax or “drop,” and, while inhaling, focus on the feeling of these muscles lengthening and loosening. While exhaling, continue to focus on this lengthened and relaxed feeling in both your pelvic floor and jaw muscles and they will begin to loosen up together!
Whether you have jaw or pelvic pain, consider how one of these areas may be negatively impacting the other and give the above exercises a try to relieve both! If you have a history of jaw pain and/or pelvic floor dysfunction, physical therapy can offer additional strategies for seeking relief and answers. Contact the experienced clinicians at Rebalance Physical Therapy for more guidance and a hands-on evaluation to see how specific bodywork and exercises can benefit the jaw and pelvis, getting them aligned and pain-free for you!
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