How can postural corrections heal your jaw?

According to research, postural corrections can help heal your jaw. I’m sure you’re thinking, how can posture affect the jaw? If properly aligned the human head is intended to sit directly on top of the shoulders . When the head moves forward in front of the shoulder, the muscles of the temporomandibular joint along with the neck and shoulder muscles, all must work in overdrive to simply hold the head up and fight gravity.

Our head weighs roughly eight pounds with our neck vertebrae supporting that weight. Now, imagine that eight pounds creeping forward inch by inch and the effect it will have on the neck and shoulders as our neck tries to support that weight which is no longer stacked nicely on top of each other.

More people are working from home now due to the Covid virus; we are sitting for longer periods at the computer without being aware of our posture and head position.

Here’s a sense of what is happening

Take something like a eight-pound dumbbell , the average weight of an adult human head, hold it directly overhead, (over your center of gravity), with your elbow locked out straight. Then, begin to move the weight forward, inch by inch, until it is about two feet out in front of you. You will notice a significant increase in strain in your shoulder and neck compared to when the weight was stacked directly over your head. In proper alignment, little effort is involved in stabilizing the weight in its position, but when you are out of alignment, a lot more effort is required.

Just like the eight-pound dumbbell, when your head moves forward out of it’s intended vertical alignment, the shoulders and the surrounding muscles must work harder to keep your head up. The complex musculature responsible for the movement and articulation of the temporomandibular joint were not intended to perform heavy lifting. When these muscles are asked to take on the role of supporting the head, they go into lock down, and the jaw loses its ability to move smoothly and freely. The result is pain, locking, and stiffness of the jaw.

The chronic loading of muscles with poor posture creates an environment prone to injury.

A research paper on the relationship of head forward posture and temporomandibular disorders revealed that a statistically significant difference was the ear angle in relationship to the seventh cervical vertebrae (in the horizontal plane). This angle was smaller in the patients with temporomandibular disorders than in the control group. In other words, when evaluating the ear position with respect to the seventh cervical vertebrae, the head was positioned more forward in the group with the temporomandibular disorders than in the control group. Changing where you hold your head in space decreases the strain on your  jaw.

Being mindful of posture is important, having strong postural stabilizers allows for less effort while correcting posture. My colleague has recently written an article on  avoid neck pain during or after exercise program while training the abdominal muscles. This article, will provide you with information to shift your posture, to build strength for your axial support to reduce strain and help relieve your symptoms in your jaw and neck.

Postural Corrections to help heal your jaw

When talking with clients, I discuss the importance of knowing where their head is being held in space, how to sit in a chair finding base support and exercises to help strengthen and lengthen the jaw muscles.

1) Sitting Posture

Figure 1

Find  your base support, reduce strain on your body

The bones in your bum, “SITS bones” or the technical name, “ischial tuberosities” allow for proper base support when sitting. The muscles no longer work so hard to support your body and so it reduces strain. I ask my clients to feel the bones in their bum, (ischial tuberosities), then reach towards the back of the chair when sitting down. Try it, what do you notice? Can you feel the SITS bones? Does it feel easier to sit, and by that I mean, less effort or feel less sore? Try to become aware of whether you are sitting on your SITS bones while you are working in front of your computer screen or perhaps sitting while studying for school. These postural changes can make a big impact on how you feel and create less effort for the body.

2) Neck Posture 

Figure 2

Reduce strain on your neck and your jaw – keep your head in neutral

Having awareness is key to having good alignment and reducing strain on your body. Take a few minutes to check to see where you are holding your head in space. Is your head reaching towards your screen or do you find yourself leaning on your chin, using it as a head rest? The research shows that there is a correlation between having your head too far forward and jaw pain. Try this trick. Use your index finger and place it on the tip of your nose, then place your thumb on the bottom of your chin, keeping that distance, bring your thumb down to your sternal notch (the hollow between the two collar bones) and then bring your chin to your index finger. The distance from the tip of your nose to your chin should be the same distance as chin to sternal notch. This will help reduce strain on both your neck and your jaw by allowing your head to be in neutral.

 3) Sleeping Posture

Figure # 3

Figure 3

 

 

 

 

 

Relieve strain on your body while sleeping

Sleeping posture is tricky to maintain, some of us move a lot in our sleep while some  hardly move at all, and of course you cannot correct your posture while you are sleeping. It is important to try to start off with good posture, good supportive pillows, and a good mattress. When standing upright, the distance from your ear to shoulder creates an L shape, keep the same L angle while sleeping so your neck is not scrunched forward or rotated to much to one side. Use the same trick to check head posture, making sure your head is in neutral if you are on your back or on your side and try to keep the L angle when on your side.

Posture could be causing your jaw pain, try the exercises from this article and see for yourself. It might save you a whole lot of time and money – and get you on the path towards a pain free jaw.

 

Contact me

For more information on postural corrective exercises or if you know of anyone you think might benefit, please contact Juliette Woodruff at jwoodruff@orthophysio.com or 416-925-4687 or contact your dental professional if discomfort persists.

References: 

Figure 1 – http://alexanderteachingstudioyour.com/-bottom-belongs-behind-you/

Figure 2 – physiotec.ca

Figure 3 – physiotec.ca

The relationship between forward head posture and temporomandibular disorders