Did you know that jaw pain and pelvic pain often occur together? It is common for people who have jaw pain, or issues with their tempomandibular joint (known as the TMJ), where the jaw meets the skull, to have issues with their pelvic floor muscles as well. Common symptoms that could indicate TMJ dysfunction include jaw pain, teeth grinding, headaches, neck or shoulder pain, difficulty chewing and tooth pain.
So what’s the connection? The jaw and pelvic floor are related anatomically and functionally in the following ways:
Early Embryo Connection
The connection between the jaw and the pelvic floor begins even before you are born! Around week 3 of human development, the embryo forms two depressions next to eachother, one of which will become the opening for the mouth, and the other the openings for the urethral, anal, and reproductive organs. These two areas of the body remain connected even as the spine grows and widens the space between the two.
Fascia refers to the thin layer of connective tissue that surrounds and provides support and structure to all of our organs, blood vessels, bones, nerves, and muscles. It is highly innervated, meaning it is sensitive tissue that picks up sensory information and can contract and tighten just like our muscles (for more info, check out our blog post about the Mysterious Tissue.) Fascia is connected through lines or sheets, and an important fascial line connection exists between the jaw muscles and the pelvic floor muscles.
Dural Tube Connection
The dural tube, or dura mater, is a casing around our central nervous system, starting at the brain and descending through the skull to its anchor at the bottom of the tailbone (sacrum). Tension in your jaw can create tension in the dural tube and therefore affect the pelvic floor and vice versa.
Stress and Tension Holding Patterns
Have you ever been stressed out and noticed you are also clenching your jaw? Just like it is common for people to hold stress and tension in our jaw by clenching or grinding our teeth, we often unknowingly hold tension in our pelvic floor muscles too. One research study measured pelvic floor muscle activity while showing emotion-inducing films, and noted that muscle activity increased with threatening film clips. Contraction of your jaw muscles and pelvic floor muscles usually occurs together as well, meaning stress could negatively impact muscle tension in both areas. By contrast, when your jaw is relaxed, your pelvic floor muscles also relax and lengthen.
On a positive note, researchers have even done studies that show that hands-on releases to jaw muscle tension improved mobility in the hips for people with chronic pain – without even touching the pelvic area. So if you find yourself grinding your teeth or tightening your jaw, let out a big open-mouthed sigh and let that tension go – your pelvic floor muscles will thank you too!
Do you have jaw or pelvic issues? Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.