The Jaw & Pelvis Connection
It may surprise you to learn how closely the jaw and the pelvis mirror each other. Tension in the jaw will almost always be mirrored in the pelvis and vice versa. Therefore, improvement in the mobility of the jaw can unleash tension in the pelvis and vice versa.
What are the reasons one body part is mirroring the other so closely?
The jaw and the pelvis are physiologically connected and the alignment and relaxation of each deeply affects the other. Let’s look at this a bit more closely:
Embryological development – At approximately Day 15 in our embryological development, a process called gastriculation occurs whereby two depressions form on the dorsal side of the embryo which become the orthopharyngeal membrane (going on to become the mouth) and the cloacal membrane (going on to form the openings of the urinary, reproductive and digestive tracts). This is a direct connection organically by way of the digestive tract which begins at the mouth and ends in the pelvic floor.
Cranial Sacral Connection – the spine later grows between the orthopharyngeal membrane and the cloacal membrane. The spine (of which the sacrcrum and coccyx form the posterior part of the pelvis) and the cranium (which the jaw is a part of) house and protects the spinal cord. Therefore, this shows a direct bony and neurological connection between the jaw and the pelvis.
Fascial Connection – Fascia is a 3 dimensional, fluid rich connective tissue network that connects and wraps around every part of the physical body – every muscle fibre, muscle, nerve fibre, nerve, bone, blood vessel, organ, etc.. It is richly embedded with all types of nerve receptors and gathers tremendous amounts of sensory information as well as providing support and mobility for our entire body. There is a direct fascial connection between our pelvis and jaw through the deep front line of fascia.
Research Studies – There have been numerous studies done by dentists and physiotherapists looking at the link between the pelvis and jaw. In one notable study, published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics from Hanover Medical School, it was concluded that Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction plays an important role in the restriction of hip range of motion (ROM) experienced by patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. They found statistically significant improvements in hip ROM by releasing the muscles of the jaw. Interestingly, these improvements returned back to their restricted baseline when they created a simulated dysfunction by having participants clench their teeth.
The Jaw, the Pelvis, Stress and Emotions – When you experience stress, trauma, shock, or strong emotions (such as anger), it is a normal physiological response to clench your jaw, clench your buttocks and tighten your pelvic floor. Can you relate? How much are you doing this throughout the day and night without even being aware of it? The jaw, the tongue, and the throat are major avenues of expression – all of these play big roles in making facial expressions and creating and shaping the sound necessary to communicate your thoughts and and emotions. The pelvis is also another very important avenue of expression for you emotionally and physically. The pelvis is our avenue of sexual expression and a significant area of letting go (think having a bowel movement, voiding our bladder or giving birth). Years of sexual repression, unspoken feelings and trying to stay in control are held in the pelvis and we feel this as tightness and pain. Midwives and doulas frequently encourage singing, sighing, breathing, and relaxing the jaw and throat as a means to release tension in the pelvis which allows for an easier labour and birth. Natural Childbirth expert, Ina May Gaskin, even coined the term “sphincter law” to explain that if the jaw and throat are relaxed then the buttocks and pelvis will be too.
If you would like to read more about the Pelvic Floor, Hannah Barnes and Savanna Levenson have both written articles for this blog and offer pelvic physiotherapy and pelvic acupuncture treatments (respectively) to address the pelvic floor specifically.
What about the Jaw?
Jaw dysfunction (aka TMJ dysfunction) can make itself known with a plethora of symptoms. You may feel the obvious ones such as pain, tightness or stiffness in the jaw or even some clicking when you open your mouth or chew. Here are some other symptoms of TMJ dysfunction that you may not realise are coming from your jaw:
- neck or shoulder pain
- tooth pain
- teeth grinding
- ringing in ears
- difficulty chewing
- difficulty opening the mouth wide
- swelling on the side of the face
- sore or tired feeling in the face
- sore jaw when waking in the morning
- episodes of acute pain or a locking of the jaw
- your dentist may have noted irregular wearing of the teeth and prescribed a night guard
The jaw and it’s movements also play a pivotal role in balance both physically and emotionally. When your jaw joints (TMJ) are out of balance or your jaw muscles are tight your body attempts to compensate to maintain balance. The muscles in your head and neck that coordinate with the jaw muscles, will then try to restore balance which will often lead to an imbalance in the vertebrae of your neck. If you maintain this over time (ie. chronic stress), other compensations will arise affecting your ribs, shoulder blades, the carriage of your head and how you breathe.
The jaw is pretty significant, isn’t it? I am often surprised at how many people I have seen that have tight jaws and it is never the primary reason that brings them to the massage table but rather it is mentioned in passing or there is an element of surprise when I work on the jaw and they notice how tight it is or they begin to notice the referred pain to the jaw when having work done on the neck. I have also seen some profound changes occur throughout the body that have come as a result of doing intra (internal) and extra (external) oral TMJ work. I have done TMJ work for many years but in the Spring, I took the Anatomy Trains – Head, Neck and Jaw course which gave me some great new perspectives on looking at and treating the jaw. For those of you interested, I (Lorna Evenden) am now offering TMJ specific appointments on Friday afternoons. You can book online through our website, or you can call the clinic at 778-640-1119, to book an appointment.