Jaw tension – the causes and treatments

Jaw tension is one of those mystery conditions that almost every performer has experienced at least once in their career. For some, it’s constant and debilitating. For others, it’s occasional and annoying. What is it? What causes it? And how can you help it?

The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects your jaw to your skull and is located just in front of each of your ears. It is controlled by the motor cortex of the brain, which controls all bodily movements. A huge 50% of the sensory and motor brain cells are devoted to it. This is significant as it means that if there is any form of TMJ dysfunction, it can create confusion in motor functions elsewhere in the body. People who experience TMJ tension may experience difficulty opening their mouths and clicking or popping sensations. TMJ tension is also associated with neck and tooth pain, dizziness and tinnitus. Other symptoms less frequently connected to TMJ tension include lower backache and hip pain, due to the element of the jaw that is interconnected with the nervous system.

Holistic medicine is an approach to health and well-being that addresses the patient as a physical, chemical, energetic, electrical, emotional and spiritual being, as opposed to a machine made up of individual parts that are not working. From this perspective, we view the TMJ as a “gateway” into the nervous system.

At my clinic, 100% of patients report a worsening of symptoms when under increased stress. Not only does increased stress result in a clenching action that causes pain and discomfort, but it also causes chemical and physiological dysfunction in the body that can lead to symptoms. Cortisol is a chemical created by the adrenal glands to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It has been shown that people with TMJ issues often have altered cortisol rhythms, which is indicative of adrenal fatigue.

If you suffer with TMJ issues, it is a good idea to check your adrenal health. You can do this by visiting your doctor or a good practitioner of natural medicine. I have helped many people recover naturally from third stage adrenal fatigue by using herbs, lifestyle changes and energetic and vibrational medicine. You can implement some easy practices into your daily life to help combat this: yoga, meditation, chanting, singing, deep breathing exercises like Qi Gong and slow, gentle walking.

When a person experiences chronic stress, the body starts to resist the effects of cortisol. As a result, inflammation is allowed to flourish. Inflammation and oxidative stress are also linked to TMJ issues and it is thought that this is what causes the pain. In my experience, taking powerful antioxidant supplements, high doses of vitamin C, some form of strong omega oil and some adaptogenic herbs can work wonders. It is also important to address underlying emotional issues that may be the root cause.

Another important factor in TMJ issues is the hormone oestrogen. TMJ tension is far more common in women and this is why it is believed that hormones play a leading role. High levels of oestrogen damage the TMJ, while testosterone inhibits damage. It is important that both men and women who experience TMJ tension have their hormones balanced. This is done best with a natural medicine practitioner. However, you can make a start yourself by maintaining a healthy weight, promoting healthy gut function, eating lots of fibre and avoiding soy, fat from non-pastured animals, BPA found in plastics and oestrogen compounds such as birth control.

TMJ tension is renowned in the medical community as being difficult to treat and, even when improvements are made, relapses are common. However, practicing natural medicine, I have seen many patients walk out of my clinic free from tension and pain and able to open their mouths fully after just an hour’s treatment. I have seen people get up off the bed and cry at the difference they feel in their jaw.

It is more common than you might imagine to see this in just one session. However, it can take up to three sessions, or possibly more, to really eradicate all the symptoms and clear the root cause. When I ask a client when the tension began, they almost always cite an emotional trauma or a hugely stressful experience in the months leading up to it.

By addressing this with various vibrational, energetic and emotional techniques and bringing in herbs, nutrition, lifestyle changes and mindful practices, patients can see dramatic, drug-free results very quickly.

West End star Jodie Jacobs recently came to my clinic for help with jaw tension she’d suffered with for years. She was initially sceptical as to whether natural medicine would be able to provide a solution for her, but the experience was a positive one. Jodie said: “I felt a dramatic difference even after the first session. I woke up the next day feeling totally different with 80% less tension and pain in my jaw. Since the second session, I’ve had barely any issues. I’ve noticed it most around stressful periods like auditions or in the run up


Gary Albert Hughes is an experienced singer, musician and kinesiologist. He trained with full scholarships at The Purcell School of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music. He is qualified with a diploma in Vocal Coaching and is a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. As well as working as a vocal coach for the likes of The Sam Wanamaker Festival at The Globe Theatre and the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Gary runs his own kinesiology practice called The Balanced Performer. He helps clients with a variety of issues including acid reflux, skin problems, food intolerances and anxiety and depression. thebalancedperformer.com


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