Is there a connection between your jaw and the pelvic area called the pelvic floor? In fact, they are connected.
TMJ represents the temporomandibular joint, abbreviated TMJ. This joint attaches your jaw to your skull. The joint is found in front of your right and left ear. This joint allows you to open and close your mouth for jaw movements such as talking or chewing.
When there is a dysfunction in the TMJ, it can be caused by the ligaments, muscles, or the actual joints surrounding this joint. This is known as TMJD or temporomandibular joint dysfunction or disorder.
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJD) are:
• Teeth clenching or grinding
• TMJ Arthritis
• Poor alignment of TMJ
• Disc dislocation
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorders are:
• Jaw pain
• Neck or shoulder pain
• Difficulty in opening your mouth widely
• Tired or sore face
• Chewing difficulties
• Tinnitus or ringing in your ears
• Facial swelling on the side of the face
• Pain of the teeth
Even a slight imbalance in your TMJ (jaw joints) can leave you suffering from headaches, nausea, dizziness, poor body posture, premature wearing of your teeth, decreased strength and flexibility, compromised breathing airways, muscles soreness and tenderness and many more symptoms.
Connection Between TMJ And Pelvic Pain
Clinically, it is common for our pelvic pain patients also to have jaw pain.
What connects the jaw to the pelvic floor?
- Embryo connection: During day 15, an embryo starts the gastrulation phase. During this phase, two depressions form next to each other. As the spine grows, these two depressions will be at each end of the spine. One will form the opening for the mouth, and the other will create the openings for the urethra, anus, and reproductive organs.
- Anatomy connection: Fascia is a connective tissue that provides internal support to hold our organs, muscles, nerves, bone, and blood vessels in place. A fascial line runs from the pelvic floor muscles to the muscles in the jaw. Ultrasound imaging of the pelvic floor has shown this connection by showing that when humming or talking with a low tone, the pelvic floor lengthens/relaxes. When speaking at a high tone, the pelvic floor elevates/contracts.
- The stress response: What happens to your muscles when you’re stressed? It is a normal reaction to tense your muscles in a stressful situation. Some common areas to tense are the jaw, neck, pelvic floor, and buttocks. In two studies by Van der Velde et al. (2000 and 2001), patients were shown a scary movie, and muscle activity was measured.
- During the scary scenes, they found pelvic floor and trapezius (neck muscle) activation. These muscles are used as a general defense mechanism. Changing your defense mechanism may not be possible. Still, learning how to recognize when you’re stressed and holding tension and how to consciously release it is essential.
The human body is complex and interconnected. We know that foot alignment can impact all the way up the spine, and now more studies are looking at how other body regions can impact the pelvic floor or vice versa.
A study (Fisher et al., 2009) demonstrated jaw and pelvis connectedness. Patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) found statistically significant improvements in their hip range of motion by releasing the jaw muscles.
A misaligned jaw contributes to several physical changes, in addition to the obvious ones that affect your teeth and your face. When you suffer from a “bad bite,” the muscle tension and activity are unbalanced.
This can work itself down and affect your entire posture. It starts with a ‘tug’ on your head, which ‘tugs’ at your posture, resulting in a slouching appearance. You look like you aren’t standing or sitting straight, with a slight roundness in your neck, shoulders, and back.
The domino effect begins cascading down your entire body and can manipulate your shoulder’s and your hips’ positioning. In many cases, it is so severe one shoulder or hip is visibly higher than the other.
Interestingly these improvements returned to the restricted baseline when they created a simulated dysfunction by having the participants clench their teeth. Another study found improved lung function and more efficient exhalation in women with strong pelvic floor contraction.
It is essential to look at the human body as a whole and not compartmentalize it. If you experience either jaw or pelvic pain, talk to your doctor and find a physical therapist specializing in pelvic health and orthopedics. Schedule an appointment with Synergy here.