How’s your temporomandibular joint feeling? If your TMJ (the hinge that connects your jaw to the base of your skull in front of your ear) is tight, tense, clenched or locked, then you may have a TMD (temporomandibular disorder) and be in need of some serious inter-oral massage.
This is definitely not indulgent, luxurious massage – it’s sheer agony; the kind of pleasurable pain you get when you know it’s ultimately doing you good. It will release long-held tension and mean you can more freely talk, chew, yawn and…
It’s been estimated that up to 30% of adults will experience TMD at some point in their lives (mostly due to stress), leading to ground-down teeth, migraines, earache and a clicky jaw. Christine Paterson, a masseur who specialises in vocal health in New York says, “Often by applying gentle pressure the therapist is able to encourage the body to let go of the tension and bring the TMJ back to a more neutral position. The ‘letting go’ of the tension because of this manual pressure can be very effective at relieving symptoms that were caused by the stress around and within the joint.”
The therapy is more common in America, but in the UK, few people have heard of it. Alina Burayaat London’s Facial Gym offers sessions, which are more torture than pampering. There’s a “STOP!” hand signal in case the pain is too much to bear (or she’ll ease off if she sees tears of agony streaming down your face or your legs kicking in the air in protest). But again, the pain is worth it. Afterwards your jaw will feel looser and your head lighter.
“Even though the therapist is applying gentle pressure, it may initially feel intense to the client because it is an area that most likely has never been touched,” explains Paterson. In New York, many of her clients are “professional voice users or people struggling with vocal or TMJ discomfort.” They’re Broadway actors, singer-songwriters, Hollywood actors, MET opera singers, sports broadcasters, lawyers or teachers. Paterson works with laryngologists and speech pathologists, helping with vocal rehabilitation as well as maintenance therapy for voice users.
Perhaps due to her location near the City in London, Burayaat’s clients are more often powerful businessmen and women with super stressful jobs, holding all that tension in the jaw muscles. They’re just the kinds of Type-As who would go in for a torturous 45-minute inter-oral kneading on their lunch break. They’d be right to though: if you’ve suffered voice problems, jaw ache, migraines and teeth grinding, this take-no-prisoners treatment could be the killer therapy you’ve been waiting for.