You Jaw Bone's Connected to Your... Hip Bone?
Ever wonder if your headaches and jaw pain are connected to your pelvic dysfunction? You’d be right!
One of the tenants of bodywork I most impress upon my clients is dysfunction in one area affects the whole system. Your foot pain will change your walking pattern which will affect your hips which will pull on your shoulders. Your shoulder injury will change how you use your arms which will affect your posture that in turn could cause problems with your neck and low back. Simple right? A more sophisticated version of your hip bone’s connected to your leg bone.
But even with these examples in mind, the direct connection between your jaw and your pelvic floor might still seem a little fuzzy. This connection requires a little more creative thinking and anatomy exploration, but it was one of my biggest “Eurika!” moments in my continuous education and shed light on why a majority of the clients I see for pelvic pain also deal with TMJ issues and headaches. (I find this really exciting in case you couldn’t tell!)
The Physical Side
On a structural level, the pelvis aligns with the jaw anatomically and developmentally. As embrioes our bodies literally unfold. The orifices for our face and pelvic floor form from the same cells at the same time opening away from each other as the rest of the body is created. Being made of the same stuff is about as direct a link as you can get!
As fully formed and functioning human people, that structural tie is perpetuated via our fascial system and posture. The typical “desk jockey” posture (the Quasimodo-sitting-at-a-computer look) is a great example of structural overstress on both the cervical and pelvic diaphragms. In this position pull our jaw forward and tuck tail under, simultaneously overstretching the muscles as we move out of alignment and overworking them as we resist fulling crunching from our waist.
Tangles, of a sort, in our fascia can also compromise our TMJ and pelvic floor muscles. Kinking one part of this continuous connective tissue through injury or postural adaptation will create compensation patterns. Where do many of these fascial lines run? You guessed it! Between the hips and neck, the pelvis and the jaw.
Another postural element to consider is our breathing. All of our diaphragms - respiratory, pelvic, thoracic and cervical - all play some role in respiration. Here's a case study that illustrates that point. When our breathing patterns are paradoxical, shallow, or otherwise dysfunctional, tension forms to maintain those adaptive movements stifling our ability to breathe fully and release that tension, perpetuating pain.
The Energetic Side
Another important connective element is the way we use our bodies to react to emotional stresses. Think about something that makes you really angry. Think about something that makes you scared. Think about something that makes you sad. Notice how your body reacts, specifically what happens in your pelvic floor and mouth. Now do it again thinking of things that make you feel happy, excited, and loved.
Most likely you noticed that the positive memories illicit a sense of relief and release, that your jaw relaxes and your pelvic floor drops. Conversely, the negative associations produce a clenched feeling and your muscles tighten. (If you weren’t able to sense your reaction at all or felt numb especially when trying to focus on your pelvis, this is normal and just means you might need a little practice connecting to your body.) Living in a high stress culture is has us constantly on guard, pulling into yourselves, and bracing against whatever might come flying at us next. Consciously registering these unconscious reactions when they happen is highly valuable as you will then be able to release that tension at will.
Work It Out
Two of the best practices you can do to get you started in rebalancing your pelvis and jaw are full breathing and a jaw/pelvis stretch.
Often when we are told to “belly breathe” or “breathe from your diaphragm,” it serves as a great start to correct chest and paradoxical breathing. However, our breath then can become stuck right under your ribs. You’ve encountered this if you have ever started to feel panicky, uncomfortable, or overly stretched while deep breathing. To expand your breath and feel more benefits, try breathing into your pelvis instead of your belly. Visualizations that can help you accomplish this are
Feeling the air collect at the base of your spine
Pulling down from your perineum (the space between your genitals and your anus)
Feeling your hips expand
Imagining your pubic bone and sacrum are moving away from each other
*Keep in mind that none of this should feel forced or cause you to bear down or push.
A great stretch for your jaw and pelvis is the Cat/Cow-Tongue Out. To perform this stretch
Rest on your hands and knees, keeping your spine aligned and head parallel with the floor
Gently arch your low back so your butt sticks up and your stomach curves down. You should feel your pelvic floor relax and open
While arching, lift your head, open your mouth fully, drop your tongue toward the floor Polynesian Warrior style
These two actions should be done together
Hold for 10 seconds
Return to resting position
Repeat 5 times
*Remember to keep breathing during the stretch. Making sound during the hold can enhance the stretch by further relaxing the throat and soft palate.
Share this article with someone who has headaches, TMJ pain, pelvic dysfunction, or who you want to make faces with!
How do these exercises make you feel? Let me know in the comments!
LMBT & Founder of Philosopher's Stone Therapeutic Massage
Serving Haddonfield, NJ and Surrounding Areas
Rhiannon loves helping you solve your pain puzzles! A chronic pain specialist with a sub-specialty in pelvic dysfunction, she understands the huge impact pain can have on your life and is dedicated to helping you reach your health goals so you can enjoy your life fully and whole. Though her style can sometimes be described as "therapeutic fluff," she is not the therapist to see for a "just to treat myself" massage.
Augmenting her initial massage training with multiple courses and certifications including SMRT, ATMAT, and IHPS she has the skills to create effective and lasting change for you. But don't go on blind faith - check out her amazing reviews!