Common Causes of TMJ Syndrome, Nocturnal Bruxism

TMJ Syndrome (also known as “TMD” and “TMJD”) includes diverse symptoms caused by reflexive actions of the muscles of biting and chewing. It comes from brain-muscle conditioning (“muscle/movement memory”) caused by trauma and/or stress.  The term, “TMJ”, refers to the Temporo-Mandibular Joints — the jaw joints.

photo | Somatic Education for TMJ Dysfunction

Muscle/movement memory retraining technique of the muscles of biting and chewing.

As with all conditioning, proper training techniques can alter the conditioning that controls the muscles of biting and chewing. An accelerated training process, clinical somatic education), dramatically reduces the time needed to correct TMD/TMJ Dysfunction by retraining the muscle/movement memory that controls biting and chewing.

Dentists commonly categorize TMD/TMJ Dysfunction into different types: joint arthritis at the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), muscular soreness (myalgia), articular disc displacement, and bite deviation.

All of these conditions reduce down to the same cause: muscle/movement memory that keeps the muscles of biting and chewing tight.  The same approach can resolve them all (except for “disc displacement without reduction”, which is a surgical situation).

Let’s see how.

Degenerative Arthritis
Degenerative arthritis of the TMJ does not just “happen by itself”, nor does it result from outside influences, like an infection.

It results from excessive compression forces upon the TMJ, imposed by chronically tight muscles of biting and chewing. The joint breaks down under pressure.

Treatment must therefore retrain those muscles to a normal, low tension state, to be effective.

Muscular Soreness (Pain)
Chronically tight muscles develop muscle fatigue — the common “burn” that people go for in athletic training.  People with TMJ Dysfunction experience pain in the ear or on one side of the jaw, from this condition.

Symptoms disappear nearly instantly, once muscles relax. For a lasting reduction of muscle tension and burn, a training process is needed. Faster and slower training processes exist. 

Articular Disc Displacement
The articular disc of the TMJ is a pad that rides between the lower jaw (mandible) and the underside of the cheek bone (zygomatic bone), which goes from below the eyes, in front, to just before the ears on both sides. The TMJ, itself, is located just in front of the ears, and although the TMJ is the “home” position for the lower jaw, the TMJ is a very free joint. The cheek bone acts as a kind of rail along which the lower jaw rides forward and back during jaw movements, out of and back into the temporo-mandibular joint. The articular disc pads the contact between the lower and upper contact surfaces, connected to the lower jaw by a ligament with some elasticity.

When jaw muscles are chronically tight, the articular disc gets squeezed between the two surfaces, upper and lower, and may get dragged out of place by jaw movements (displacement) — a very painful condition.

If the displaced position of the disc is within the rebound capacity of the attaching ligament, the disc can return to its home position (“disc displacement with reduction”), once excessive compression forces ease. If the ligament gets stretched past its rebound capacity, the disc stays out of place (“disc displacement without reduction”).

Bite Deviations
Bite deviations do not, in themselves, cause of TMJ Dysfunction, but they are a manifestation of it.  However, when combined with excessive tension in the muscles of biting and chewing, the sensation of bite deviations get magnified, experienced as the sensation of “misfit”; grinding motions (bruxism) are actually a seeking for the comfort of a fit in a rest position, which is unavailable due to the feeling of upper and lower jaw misfit that bite deviations create.

While something radical like surgery may seem to be a necessary option, it is usually sufficient (and necessary) is to bring the jaw muscles to rest. To do so increases the tolerance (i.e., comfort) of the mismatched situation to the point where it is not disturbing.

The means to do this involves retraining muscle/movement memory of the muscles of biting and chewing.

The underlying condition for the others, trauma (a blow to the lower jaw or dental work) triggers the muscles of biting to tighten (“trauma reflex”).

Gum chewing is not a cause, in itself, of TMJ Dysfunction.

I say more about trauma, below.

Conditioning Influences
The jaw muscles, like all the the muscles of the body, are subject to control by conditioned postural reflexes (muscle/movement memory), which affect chewing and biting movements. The reason people don’t go around slack-jawed and drooling, for example, is that a conditioned postural reflex causes the muscles of biting and chewing always to remain slightly tensed, keeping jaws closed. People’s jaw muscles are always more or less tense, even when they are asleep — but the norm is very mildly tense — just enough to keep the mouth closed and lips together.

The degree of tension people hold is a matter of conditioning.

For brevity, I’ll discuss only conditions that lead to TMJ/bruxism and not the normal development of muscle tone in the muscles of biting and chewing.
These influences fall into two categories:

  • Emotional Stress
  • Physical Trauma

I don’t know of empirical studies that prove which of these two causes is the more prevalent, but from my clinical experience, I would say that physical trauma (and tooth and jaw pain — which induces people to change their biting and chewing actions, and which becomes habitual) is the more common causes of TMJ Syndrome, and also dental surgery, itself. (Consider the jaw soreness that commonly follows dental fillings, crowns, root canals, etc. — soreness that may last for days.)

Emotional Stress
Ever heard the expressions, “Bite your tongue”? “Grit Your Teeth”? “Bite the Bullet”? “Hold your tongue”? “Bite the Big One”? They all have something in common, don’t they? What is that? To someone who regularly represses emotion or the urge to say something, these expressions have literal meaning.

Such repression, over time, manifests as tension held in the muscles of speech — in the jaws, mouth, neck, face, and back — the same as the muscles of biting and chewing.

Physical Trauma
Although people experience trauma to the jaws through falls, blows, and motor vehicle accidents, the most common form of physical trauma (other than dental disease) is dentistry, itself, and it’s unavoidable. Dental surgery is traumatic. The relevant term is “iatrogenic” — which means “caused as a side-effect of treatment”. Every dental procedure (and every surgical procedure) should be followed by a process for dispeling the reflexive guarding triggered by the procedure. (See the video.)

No doubt, this assertion will cause much distress among dentists, and I regret that, but how can we escape that conclusion?

Consider the experience of dentistry, both during and after dental surgery (fillings, root canal work, implants, cosmetic dentistry, crown installation, injections of anaesthetic, even routine cleanings and examinations). Consider the response we have to that pain or even the expectation of pain: we cringe.

We may think such cringing to be momentary, but consider the intensity of dental surgery; it leaves intense memory impressions on the nervous system evident as patterns of tension. (Who’s relaxed going to the dentist? — or coming out of the dentist’s office?) The physical after-effects show up as tension in the jaws and neck, and often in the spinal musculature, as well — and as a host of other symptoms.

Let’s go back to our fond memories of dentistry.

If you’ve observed your physical reactions in the dentist’s surgery station, you may have noticed that during probing of a tooth for decay (with that sharp, hooked probe they use), you tighten not just your jaw (can you feel it?) and your neck muscles, but also the muscles of breathing, your hands, and even your legs. It’s an effort to remain lying down in the surgery station when, bodily, you want to get up and get away from those instruments and the dentist or hygienist wielding them.

With procedures such as fillings, root canal surgery, implants and crown installations, the muscular responses are more specific and more intense. It’s important to ask your dentist about the best way to whiten teeth has never been more popular, even amongst the 50+. For teeth near the back of the jaws, we tense the muscles nearer the back of our neck; for teeth near the front of the jaws, we tense the muscles closer the front of the throat, floor of the mouth and tongue.

This reflexive response has a name: Trauma Reflex.

Trauma Reflex is the universal, involuntary response to pain and to expectation of pain.

It centers at the location of the pain at the time of trauma and is linked to our position at the time of pain. Muscular tensions form as an action of withdrawing, avoiding, or escaping the source of pain:  tensions of the jaw muscles, neck, and shoulders, with muscular involvement all the way into the legs.

In dentistry, with the head commonly turned to one side, in addition to the simple trauma reflex associated with pain, we have the involvement of our sense of position, and not just the muscles of the jaws are involved, but also those of the neck, shoulders, spine.

All of these conditions combine into an experience that goes into memory with such intensity that it modifies or entirely displaces our sense of normal movement and position. We forget free movement and instead become habituated or adapted to the memory of the trauma (whether of dental work or of some other trauma involving teeth or jaws). Our neuro-muscular system acts as if the trauma is still happening, even though, to our conscious minds, it is long past, and the way it acts as if the trauma is still happening is by tightening the muscles that close the jaws.

Since accidents and surgeries address teeth at one side of the jaws or the other, the tensions occur on one side of the jaws or the other. Thus, the symptoms of such tension — jaw pain, bite deviations, and earaches — tend to be one-sided or to exist on one side more than on the other.

The proof of the role of trauma reflex? — the permanent changes of bite and tension of the muscles of biting that have behind them a history of dental trauma — and the changes you see in the video that occur as this man is relieved of those conditioned postural reflexes.

AN OFFERING:   See how”The Whole-body Yawn” reconditions the muscles of biting and chewing to normal levels — ending all symptoms of TMJ Syndrome / TMD. CLICK HERE

RELATED ARTICLE:  Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome

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How to Free Tight Hamstrings

This entry discusses healthy hamstring movement, exercises to free tight hamstrings, and some of the consequences of tight hamstrings. Resources to a hamstring stretch substitute that produces superior results by retraining muscle/movement memory and to programs to improve agility appear at the end.

To free tight hamstrings, it’s important to understand their four movement functions and then to get free control of those movement functions.

  1. leg extension at the hip joint
  2. leg flexion at the knee
  3. rotation of the lower leg at the knee joint
  4. stabilization of the pelvis when bending forward

We must free them (gain control of tension and relaxation) in all four movement functions.

If we do not gain (or improve) control in all four movement functions, one or more of those movement habits will dominate control of the other movement(s).

In addition, the hamstrings of one leg work alternately with those of the other — as in walking; when the hamstrings of one leg are bending or stabilizing the knee, the hamstrings of the other leg are extending or stabilizing the other leg at the hip.   In those movements, the hamstrings coordinate with the hip flexors and psoas muscles.  (Co-contraction of hamstrings and hip flexors/psoas muscles leads to hip joint and ilio-sacral (SI) joint compression.)  So our approach (being movement-based) must take those relationships into account.  Otherwise, we never develop the feeling of free hamstrings in their familiar movements and return habitually to their tight state which, because it feels familiar, feels “normal”.

The Four Movements of Hamstrings

That’s the “leg backward” movement of walking.  The hamstrings are aided by the gluteal (butt) muscles, but only in a stabilizing capacity.  The major work is done by the hamstrings.  In this movement, the hamstrings, inner and outer, work together in tandem.

That’s the “getting ready to kick” movement and also the “pawing the ground” movement.  In these movements, the hamstrings, inner and outer, also work together in tandem (same movement).

To the anatomist and kinesiologist, it may seem incomprehensible (“paradoxical”) that the hamstrings are involved in both movements — leg forward and leg backward — but that’s how it is.   Though the hamstrings are involved in both cases, different movements cause a different feel.

That’s the turning movement used in skating and in turning a corner.  In this movement, the inner hamstrings (semi-membranosis and semi-tendinosis) relax and lengthen as the outer hamstring (biceps femoris) tighten to turn toes-out and the inner hamstrings tighten to turn toes-in as the outer hamstring relaxes and lengthens.

The hamstrings anchor the pelvis at the sitbones (ischial tuberosities) deep to the ‘smile’ creases beneath the buttocks (not the crack), so one can bend forward in a controlled way, instead of flopping forward at the hips like a marionette.  In this movement, the hamstrings coordinate with the front belly muscles (rectus abdominis).

In most people, either the rectus abdominis or hamstrings dominates the other in a chronic state of excessive tension, so freeing and coordinating the hamstrings involves coordinating and matching the efforts of the two muscle groups.  When the hamstrings dominate, we see swayback; when the rectus muscles dominate, we see flat ribs.

Training Control of Tight Hamstrings

the opposite of tight hamstrings | photo

See how easily she bends forward.

When training control of tight hamstrings (to free them), it’s convenient to start with the less complicated movement, first.  That’s the anchoring movement that stabilizes bowing in a standing position.  To see an exercise that cultivates hamstring control this way, click here.

After we cultivate control of “in tandem” hamstring movements (movement in which the hamstrings are doing the same action — lengthening, shortening or turning the lower leg), we cultivate control of “alternating” hamstring movements.  To see an exercise that cultivates hamstring control this way, click here.  (That link opens an email window to request a preview of The Magic of Somatics, an instructional book of somatic exercises.  The preview contains the somatic exercise we are discussing.)

By cultivating control of “in tandem” and “alternating” movements, we fulfill the requirements of functions (1.), (2.), and (4.).  The exercise linked in the paragraph above indirectly addresses function (3.) (lower leg rotation at the knee).

Merely to develop this kind of control is sufficient to free tight hamstrings.  It’s lack of free control of the movements I have described, in which automatic postural reflexes cause tight hamstrings, that lead to many common knee injuries (including meniscal tears and chondromalacia patelli) and common hamstring pulls or tears experienced even by athletes who stretch.

One more thing:  tight hamstrings go with tight back muscles.  They’re reflexively connected.  So if you have tight back muscles, back pain, or even back spasms, you may need to address both your hamstrings and your back muscles.  As a runner, you’ll find that to do so improves your stamina, breathing, and time.

Two programs that provide those benefits appear below.  Free previews are available and you’re invited to take advantage of them.

Programs That Have Somatic Exercises that Free Tight Hamstrings

Other exercises that have this effect exist in the somatic exercise programs, “Disproving the Myth of Aging” and “Free Your Psoas”, for which previews exist through the links, above.



How Tight Hamstrings
Cause Knee Damage

and a better way to free them












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Changing Muscle Memory — Manual Manipulation vs. Neuromuscular Training/Somatic Education

A basic understanding of muscle tone recognizes that the seat of control of muscles and movement is not muscles, but the brain, not “muscle memory” but “movement memory”, not “posture” but habitual or learned movement patterns (of which posture is an expression, a moment of held movement).

Lasting changes in muscle tone require movement training at the neurological (i.e., brain) level, something that manual manipulation of muscles accomplishes, at best, slowly, but which can be achieve quickly by somatic education, a discipline that rapidly alters habitual posture, movement, and muscle tone through an internal learning process that involves the brain function of memory, find more at Nixest.

More at and along with clinical applications.

Image of Thomas Hanna developed a rapid way to alter muscle memor

Thomas Hanna, Ph.D.

See also, Clinical Somatic Education — A New Discipline in the Field of Health Care, by Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. — describing the dynamics of muscle memory and its dysfunction, sensory-motor amnesia (“S-MA”)

in reference to: What is Neuromuscular Therapy? (view on Google Sidewiki)









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Stress, Sleep, and Somatics

Get Out of The Big Squeeze of Thinking and Restlessness

Sleep and wakefulness — two contrasting states that exist on a continuum — meaning that we drift between the two depending on our state of arousal.

Sleep and stress (or distress) — two overlapping states — meaning that stress permeates the continuum between sleep and wakefulness.  High levels of stress prevent the “drift” between the two states — or contaminate the sleep state, leading to unsatisfactory, or unrestful, sleep. For the body to rest well, it needs to have regular and normal levels on the body, from the stress levels, to other hormones levels, like testosterone for men, so for keeping a good level of testosterone you should try some testmax nutrition that help regulates and increase those levels.

Hanna somatic education identifies three reflexes of stress

  1. Landau Reaction (“Green Light Reflex”) — the “go” state of involvement, heightened alertness, arousal
  2. Trauma Reflex (“Yellow Light Reflex”) — the “caution” state triggered by pain, injury or emotional trauma
  3. Startle Reflex (“Red Light Reflex”) — the “stop” state of fear, anxiety, withdrawal

Perhaps it’s obvious how these reflexes of stress interfere with sleep.  What may not be so obvious is how to down-regulate these reflexes of stress to allow for restful sleep caused by anxiety, some people will ask me where to buy kratom because it helps with anxiety.  (By “down-regulate”, I mean, “decrease their intensity toward the rest condition”.)

All three of these states have both a subjective (inner or psychic) component and an objective (outer or directly observable, material) component.  To affect one is to affect the other.

In general, the reflexes of stress are triggered by external events, but maintained by internal conditioning.

How to down-regulate them?

… by means of The Whole-Body Yawn (pandiculation)

The Whole-Body Yawn
Yawning involves a movement into muscular contraction, generally of the muscles of the jaws, face, neck, middle ear (that regulate sound transmission), shoulders, and of breathing — followed by a leisurely relaxation of those muscles.

Yawning refreshes the body-image (which is why people commonly yawn and stretch upon arising from sleep) and it refreshes muscular control.  Involuntary yawning, as in sleepiness (makes you want to yawn, doesn’t it?), relaxes accumulated muscular tension.  It quiets the nervous system, preparing us for sleep; insomnia can be relieved with a traditional medicinal herb called kratom.

That’s an important clue.

People who can’t sleep are stuck with a noisy nervous system (chronic thinking, chronic muscular tension) — noise generally caused by the accumulated memory imprints of the day’s experience, or of the week’s experience, or of years of accumulated experience, including that of traumatic events.

The mind never shuts off.  The body never quiets down.  The person never deeply rests.

The patterns of chronic muscular tension and mental activity correspond exactly to those memories.  The memory of kicking a soccer ball involves the movements, muscular actions, and sensations of kicking.  The memory of an unpleasant (or pleasant) event involves the tensions of whatever response the person had.  Sometimes, people can’t sleep because they are too excited by the day they have just had.

These examples set the stage for this:  If you want to sleep, you had better be able to release these states of excitation imprinted on your memory.

In general, the most common state of excitation is that of Landau Reaction (“Green Light Reflex”).  It’s the one associated with tight back muscles, tight shoulders, and tight hamstrings.  The other reflexes of stress have different muscular patterns of involvement.

If you want to recover your ability to drift from wakefulness to sleep, try something extra with something like I did with mine from, you can do so by disarming (or quieting, or down-regulating) your excitation in the three reflexes of stress.  To do so quiets your nervous system, your breathing, your mind and your emotions.

The Whole-Body Yawn can down-regulate (or dispel) all three patterns of stress.  However, as Trauma Reflex involves unique patterns of tension and pain, it requires forms of the Whole-Body Yawn tailored to those stress-and-tension patterns.  The Green Light and Red Light Reflexes, however, can be dealt with by means of standard forms of The Whole-Body Yawn, as found in the somatic education program, Get to Sleep.

Get to Sleep consists of guiding instruction in a somatic exercise that quiets (or down-regulates) Landau (“Green Light”) Reaction, one that frees breathing, and one that quiets Startle (“Red Light”) Reflex.  Two additional tracks consist of sound works that, like lullabies, help you drift into The Deep of Sleep, so that you’re asleep before you know it.

Now, you know the rationale for the program.  What’s left, if you are among the insomniacs of the world, is to test it, and having tested it, to use it.

Here are the tracks on the Get to Sleep CD.

1. Introduction                                 (2:04)
2. Spine Wave(training)                (26:54)
3. The Square Breathing                 (6:56)
4. Freeing Breathing for Sleep        (2:11)
5. Dream Zone with Maui Rain    (12:01)
6. The Mystery of Creation          (20:15)

For the first week or so, you use Track 2. (Spine Waves); after that, you use tracks 3. and 4. (The Square Breathing and Freeing Breathing for Sleep).  Tracks 5. and 6. (“Dream Zone with Maui Rain” and “The Mystery of Creation”) are lullabies.
Click here for access to Get to Sleep.

related entry:  Back Spasms, The Inside Story















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