Facial therapy expert Veronica Massa shares some thoughts around anxiety and jaw tension and gives some helpful tips to help with this - attend her workshop on 26th August for more info!
Can Anxiety Cause Jaw Tension?
Do you relate to that?
Becoming aware of your body and how it feels, helps connecting with the feelings/emotions that are causing that tension. Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to let them go replacing them with new, positive and expansive one.
Where does it starts with you?
We tighten our jaws when we feel stress or anxiety. It becomes a habit to tighten our jaws, each time we feel emotions or an urge to share something. The jaws can be a major place for physical stress to accumulate. Just as the neck, shoulders and back, the jaws are a hotspot for mental unease to build up.
Why at the jaws?
Because we were told to do so!
“Shut your mouth!”
“Don’t cry, stiff upper lip”
“Don’t answer back, bite your tongue.”
Have you ever been told any of these sentences when you were a child and the years that followed? Probably as we grew up we were told many times to shut our mouth, to swallow our emotions and to tighten our jaws. So, we did and became very good at it…. just hold it in, don’t show your anger, don’t express your feelings. And we bravely keep them inside, attach to them and can’t let them go. We can hide them, but they are still present and active, manifesting through tension, tightness and pain, ultimately holding us back. And every time a situation triggers that feeling, here it comes again, we clench our jaw!
What if, instead of repressing it, denying it and hold it back, we connect deeply to that feeling and accept it as a part of us, we become comfortable with it, we feel it, experience it, see how our body responds to it, and then we come back to our centre, ground with a deep breath and let it go. Doing so we learn to detach and look at things objectively and ultimately let go of those feelings causing the tensions and be pain free.
So when you feel that tension building up and the pain raising, ask yourself:
How am I feeling? What am I feeling?
Which emotion am I hanging on to?
What is it that upset me? And why does it make me feel that way?
Am I feeling upset? Guilty? Fearful? Angry? Anxious? And why?
Which vibration is making me contract those muscles?
Anxiety, what is it?
The fight or flight response is your body's natural reaction to danger. Your brain sends messages to your body that you're in danger, increasing your heart rate (so that you can run faster), causing you to sweat (to keep you cool), and so on. At its core, this fight or flight system is critical for your life and safety.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, early man was faced with many dangers. From large predators to small poisonous snakes, they needed a way to make sure that if they were faced with danger, they could react quickly and keep themselves away from harm. Unfortunately, many people find that their fight/flight system has gone haywire, and is causing them to experience significant distress even when no immediate danger is present. When your body is reacting like it's in danger without any threat to your safety, you may have what's known as "Anxiety."
There are many anxiety symptoms that can affect nearly every part of your body.
This can create a problem, because unusual or unexpected anxiety symptoms can lead to further anxiety, that's often what happens when anxiety causes jaw pain.
Anxiety can cause jaw pain through clenching, tension, and more. It can also make you more aware of jaw pain that otherwise you would easily ignore.
Obviously jaw discomfort can be caused by any number of dental issues as well as bad posture (a forward head posture contributes to tension in the jaws).
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
The temporomandibular joint is the joint where the mandible (the lower jaw) and the skull connect. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is an umbrella term for acute or chronic pain in the jaws. The pain is caused by the effects of physical stress on the structures around the joint, including the cartilage disk at the joint, muscles of face, neck and jaws, nearby ligaments and teeth. The largest of the cranial nerves, the trigeminal nerve, is going right through the joint. This nerve is responsible for sensations in the face and motor functions like biting, chewing and swallowing.
Symptoms of jaw tension
Jaw pain is also rarely the only anxiety symptom you experience.
You can feel discomfort or pain in the jaw, throat and neck. Your jaw can be locked, or you have this ‘clicking’ feeling when muscles move over the jaw joint when opening the mouth.
It can also be painful or impossible to completely open the mouth. It can give you hard times eating ice cream. Other symptoms include a dry or burning sensation in the mouth, forehead or temple headache, buzzing or ringing in the ears and hearing loss.
Many of the physical pains of anxiety are caused by muscle tension, or simply tension in general. This tends to be especially true of jaw pain and most jaw and tooth discomfort. The association between anxiety and jaw pain isn't always obvious, but there are generally two causes:
• Facial Tension All forms of facial tension may lead to jaw pain. You may not realize you're tense either. Hormones in the body can tense your muscles and joints even without any action from you. Facial tension can be felt in many ways, and often jaw pain is one of the symptoms.
• ClenchingJaw clenching is perhaps even more common. This form of clenching may not happen during the day either. Many of those with anxiety clench their teeth at night, sometimes with grinding, and when you wake your teeth and gums have experienced so much pressure that they cause you considerable amounts of pain.
Stress can also have an unusual effect on your body, including your jaw and teeth, so you may find that your pain is due to something other than the above two causes. Furthermore, anxiety can make what would be regular jaw pain feel more pronounced, so less jaw pain feels more painful because your mind can't stop focusing on the discomfort.
Some tips to help with anxiety and jaw pain
• MINDFULNESS AND BODY AWARENESS
Mindfulness and body awareness are practices that, with time, can re-train your brain and provide relief. Pay attention to your anxiety. When you feel yourself getting stressed, when you perceive the increasing of your heart and breathing rate due to negative feelings and thoughts, see how your mouth feels. If you find that you're clenching, focus on your breathing and see if you can slow down making your breathing and heart rate go at the same paste. Focus on your mouth and feel your jaw slowly and with awareness relax and drop with gravity. Eventually you can train your brain to stop automatically clenching your jaw during periods of intense anxiety.
This will help to relieve tension around your mouth and facial area, feel calmer and be in control of your anxiety. In general, it is very beneficial to be aware of the moments when your jaws are clenched – or relaxed. You can try to keep your lips slightly separated during the day, and let your jaw just float.
• CORRECT BAD HABITS
Stop habits that increase tension in the jaws. Pay attention to your posture, the neck forward posture is a big cause! Sit up straight, open your chest (and your heart), feel a tread pulling from the crown of your head keeping your neck extended upwards and relaxed (don’t give yourself a double chin as this will put strain in your occipital muscle making things worse), or imagine to hold a apple on top of your head. Stop chewing gums all day and don’t tighten your jaws when you feel hurt. Express it openly, talk about it!
Since stress is an inducer of jaw tension, being able to find time for yourself and relax is very important. You can try to do a pranayama yoga exercise. Try for instance the ‘alternate nostril breathing’. Put your right thumb on your right nostril and push softly, so you can only breathe through your left nostril. Breathe in very slowly. Then remove your thumb (keep your hand where it is) from your nostril and softly close your left nostril with your index finger. Breathe out slowly. Keep this nostril closed and breathe in. Now alternate again and close your right nostril with your thumb, breath in, breath out, and change again.
While doing this yoga breathing exercise, focus on your breath. By alternating the nostril through which you breathe, you stimulate the connection between the left and right part of the brain. There are many meditations techniques including Hypnosis that are very helpful.
• JAW MASSAGE
Start with rubbing your hand palms to get your hands nice and warm.
There are many massage techniques that work brilliantly releasing and stretching the muscles and mobilise the TMJ joint which will probably feel stiff.
Put your thumb under your chin and give a little pressure. Now open your mouth while keeping the pressure from the thumb. Repeat this 10 times. This exercise gently stretches your jaw muscles.
Open your mouth as wide as you can with no particular focus, then slowly close it. Open your mouth again, but focus this time on opening the left side of your mouth as wide as you can. Repeat the exercise for the right side of your mouth.
LEARN MASSAGE THECNIQUES AND TIPS, SIGN UP FOR THE
GET RID OF FACIAL TENSION WORKSHOP for a relaxed face and a calmer mind
Smiling helps alleviating jaw tension, opens your throat (and helps emotions flowing!) and relaxes your facial muscles.
• YOGA: LION’S POSE
The lion’s pose is a yoga pose that relieves tension in the face especially TMJ area.