is an effective and conservative treatment for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain.
It's also easy to learn! Read on...
First, a note about pressure...
Many clients (and some less-experienced therapists) have misconceptions around the use of pressure in deep tissue massage. The goal of pressure in massage is not to increase length or depth, or to "power away" pain and/or restriction, but instead to provide sufficient touch to engage the clients own nervous system in active listening and communication with sometimes difficult to locate or access areas of the body experiencing pain (it just so happens that many of these areas lie in deeper tissues of the body). The goal is to address the clients sore spots quite directly, though in a nurturing manner, and not to create any increased suffering for the client. We actually seek to utilize the minimum amount of pressure necessary to find and connect the person with their locus of pain in a manner feeling both safe and directly meaningful by their own reporting, and then coach them through release of the spasm. "We cannot force an already traumatized muscle to relax, but we can often, through artful intervention, convince a muscle that it's safe to relax."
Introductory pressure when first massaging an area is often described as similar to "a firm handshake hello", neither timid nor overly assertive, but curious, supportive and welcoming. Continuing pressure can be described as though "pushing a boat in water away from a dock", with almost exaggeratedly slow, steady and sustained pressures providing superior results which are faster occurring and longer lasting compared to overbearing pressure or overly stimulative rubbing or gliding motions. In fact, just as with pushing a boat in water, the pressure should be quite static, and movement or glide in deep tissue massage should generally occur only as resistance to pressure in the tissue naturally yields or releases, giving way to the next layer of tissue and sensation, and the next... Clients can expect to feel any of the following positive signs in the tissue that the therapy is being effective, feelings of warmth or return to blood flow, twitching, jumping, "melting" of muscle tissue both incrementally and wholesale and/or relief of general or specific muscle tone or tension, as well as increase in definition of underlying structures including trigger point "knots" within the muscle tissue along with brightening of "familiar" referral patterns of pain. There is a truism in deep tissue massage that says, "you can never go too deep into muscle tissue for a clients comfort or safety, you can only go too deep too quickly".
A great rule of thumb is that massage should always feel both safe and effective to you the client. Touch in massage should feel nurturing, with pressure throughout at a level which allows a clients sore or painful areas to feel heard while still able to relax into the therapy, and although we sometimes talk about pressure or sensation which "hurts so good" when it's feeling effective, a good way to gauge what is safe is to never continue to apply (or allow another person to continue to apply) during any massage, pressure or sensation which causes you to feel guarded or in any way like you might flinch. If/when there is an encounter with sensation which causes you to feel guarded or unsure in any way, simply back the pressure off (or request backed off pressure) even all the way to the point which feels no longer effective if necessary, and then slowly re-approach the area with renewed curiosity and exploration. If you find in the course of treatment that you/your therapist are unable to apply any pressures which feel both safe and effective to you as the recipient, you may want to seek referral to a TMJ healthcare professional or specialist.