03 Mar 2018

Hormones – what can jaw muscles possibly have to do with those? Ever heard anything weirder?

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Jaw muscles and hormones are related.  As a body energy-focused Bowen therapist at Jing (http:www.jinghealthcare.com)  I mainly deal with chronic and acute jaw, head, neck, shoulder and back pain and the underlying emotions. I do this with a combination of bodywork, Esoteric Acupuncture-based advanced energy healing techniques studied under Los Angeles acupuncturist and Oriental Medicine practitioner Dr Mikio Sankey, and the therapeutic-focus approaches to reflexology offered through Eastern chi and Western craniosacral reflexology studied under French osteopath and acupuncturist/naturopath Dr Martine Faure Alderson and Moss Arnold of the Australian College of Chi Reflexology.

I see a lot of teeth grinders, jaw clenchers and people with misaligned, clicking or popping jaws. Over time I noticed that

  1. All of my female clients who also see my colleague Dr Natasja Fox for hormonal issues present with a misaligned, clicking or popping jaw.
  2. In the vast majority of my female clients with headaches, migraines, neck/shoulder and back pain one leg is shorter than the other. This is usually a functional short leg, meaning it is not due to an underlying structural imbalance).
  3. These clients usually report that they grind their teeth (bruxism) and/or clench their jaw (TMD or temporomandibular disorder).

What triggered my curiosity about a connection between jaw issues and hormonal imbalances was the location of our master gland the pituitary – it sits in a saddle-like depression between the two wings of a bone inside our head called the sphenoid (https://sketchfab.com/models/acf56089e46d4c7cb848c1945f2c24e1). This bone is connected to our jaw via attachments and usually involved in musculoskeletal symptoms like

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Scoliosis (10 degree)
  • Lordosis
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Vision issues, misalignment of the eyes and inability to concentrate and many others.

Head injuries, accidents, contact sports and also birth trauma can knock the sphenoid out of alignment. Considering the location of the pituitary – what if a sphenoid misalignment was the cause of, or at least contributed to, the hormonal issues so many women suffer?

When we are in pain the body will compensate. We change the way we walk, sit, stand and rest, and the muscles will adjust. This usually means that in any given muscle pair (we have two of each, one on each side of the body) one will be tight (contracted) and the other stretched (extended).

A little anatomy

So let’s assume you have neck pain and a functional short right leg in a standard scenario with no underlying structural imbalances. You also grind your teeth and/or clench your jaw. As an aside the bite force of the back teeth of a male can pack a punch of up to 120 kg https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7744385, with females not far behind.

As the body tends to compensate diagonally, what usually happens is that the contracted side will affect the next level down on the same side (shoulder), which will then put pressure on the left lower back and pull the hip out of alignment … which then shortens the right leg.

The Superficial Back Line (SBL)

http://pocayo.com/Tutorial/topic-7/Myofascial-Meridians-for-Manual-and-Movement-Therapists-86.html. This is the longest band of connective muscle tissue we have in the body. It also shares the territory with the bladder meridian. Bladder in Traditional Chinese Medicine forms the Water element together with Kidney. Water is all about flow, emotions, and also the underlying core emotion of Fear. The bladder meridian specifically is associated with both letting go and also being pissed off. Both emotions as well as both meridians communicate with specific muscles (Psoas in the lower back and Sartorius crossing the upper thigh). These two muscles in turn have a kinergetic communication link with our jaw. And the jaw is a place where we all hold a lot of cellular or body memory that we tend to swallow or not express.

Now look at the side view of the SBL. If the neck muscles are tight, they will change the way the skull sits on the spinal column, pushing the chin forward. This will stress the big neck muscles at the front that affect jaw alignment among other things.

The jaw is the most powerful and the most used joint in the body. We use it for

  • Eating
  • Swallowing
  • Speaking

Now for the hormone connection

Between the two wings of the sphenoid is a small saddle-like depression (sella turcica, Turkish saddle) where the pituitary (our master gland) resides. A misaligned, clicking or popping jaw may also affect the alignment of the sphenoid. And if the sphenoid is not sitting where Nature intended, it will have repercussions for the neighbourhood of the pituitary. Our glands work as a team – if one is “out”, so will be the rest.

There is research that supports this concept

Most of what I have found is very technical and goes beyond the scope of this article. Here are a few good sources from PUBMED:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29127312, Progesterone attenuates temporomandibular joint inflammatipn through inhibition of NF-KB pathway in ovariectomised rats

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15823829, Sexual hormone serum levels and temporomandibular disorders. A preliminary study. Gynecological endocrinology: the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27856968, Estrogen-induced monocytic response correlates with TMD pain: A case control study

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1806-83242016000100278&lng=en&tlng=en, Prevalence of temporomandibular disorders in postmenopausal women and relationship with pain and HRT

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18597950, The possible role of estrogen in the incidence of temporomandibular disorders.

Research in a nutshell

Females are noticeably more likely to develop jaw disorders than males. This is due to a suspected link with the female hormonal axis. Among the major reasons quoted are

  • Stress (emotional, mental and muscular) – impaired sleep; increased cortisol secretion may contribute to inflammation.
  • Synthetic hormones (contraception, HRT).
  • Nutrient deficiencies and/or nutrient loss during menstruation.
  • Frustration, anger, tension.
  • Autoimmune diseases that generate wear on joint cartilage.
  • Frequent gum chewing. This also affects our digestion as the body is primed to receive food and doesn’t get any.

Research points to females being most likely to develop jaw disorders during their most fertile life periods. The same is true for  their elder years. Hormonal changes are part of both life phases.

The manifestation chain

I see a manifestation chain of Water/flow/emotion/Fear – jaw/stress/tension/cellular or body memory / unexpressed trauma and neck/shoulder/back and jaw pain that affects the wellbeing of our hormonal system.

Research underpins my suggestion that relaxation of the Superficial Back Line and jaw muscles would be very helpful in returning a woman to hormonal balance. I truly believe that this approach enhances and potentially speeds up the efficacy of professionally prescribed supplements.

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