In my previous article, Why Does My Jaw Hurt, I described the anatomy behind TMJ and jaw pain and how Forward Head Posture/Text Neck can be a contributing factor. Does it seem too hard to believe that your posture is affecting your jaw pain?
Your jaw doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s connected from every angle to the rest of your head, neck, and chest by way of fascia, a goopy body-wide web that helps to give your body its structure, shape and stability. Even your tongue, which is really just a muscular bag filled with fluid, is intricately connected with the jaw’s fascias, which is why tongue thrusting is another possible tension generator in the jaw. When the fascias are overly stiff or overworked, this tension bleeds into other areas and can cause an asymmetrical pull on the surrounding tissues.For every inch your head comes in front of your shoulders (a la the Biebs in the photo), it adds an additional 10 pounds of pressure on the muscles that hold up your neck. That means staring at your phone in your lap make your 11-pound head more than 40 pounds of pressure on your neck!
This tends to leave the muscles in the front of the neck short and weak while the soft tissues on the backside of the neck are overstretched and weak. In short, no one is happy and everyone needs a remedial lesson on proper posture.
The first thing is to get your head properly situated on top of your shoulders. This can be very difficult if you’ve let gravity shift your head forward for a long time, but do your best to get your ears aligned with the tops of your shoulders. This process is helped by a group of stabilizing muscles at the front of the neck called the Deep Neck Flexors (DNF).
The DNF are fantastic at stabilizing your head when it is properly positioned over your shoulders, but cannot do their job when your head is out of alignment forward. This is when the upper back and neck take over, and they are always very loud and grouchy about the extra workload!
To retrain your DNF to activate, lay on the ground and try to nod your chin towards your chest without picking your head up off the ground. If the moment you lie down your chin is already poking up towards the ceiling, prop your head up with a blanket or block so that your nose points up (versus the chin). If you feel the front and sides of the neck contract, your more superficial neck muscles are probably compensating for the DNF.
When your DNF are online and doing their job, the upper back muscles will no longer need to hold your head on. The pressure on the back of the neck and jaw will be relieved as you build strength at the front of the neck (and relieve pressure as well!).
Want to learn more? Check out my 3-part video series here that has self-care exercises that you can do anywhere, at anytime.
Plus, if you’re ready to commit fully to resolving neck, jaw and shoulder pain, check out my Jaw Pain Self-Care Guide, which will guide you through 15 days of self-care videos geared specifically at helping to improve posture and resolve pain.
- January 6: FREE Roll + Relax at Athleta (Pasadena, CA)
- January 14-15: Treat While You Train at 24 Hr Fitness (Kissimmee, FL)
- January 21-22: Treat While You Train at 24 Hr Fitness (Walnut Creek, CA)
- February 3-5: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training (Poulsbo, WA)