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M.H .Sc (TCM)
a re chewing their food. If the problem is left
untreated, the tension will gradually spread
to the rest of the face, resulting in neck pain,
debilitating headaches, e a rache s, a nd even
How can it be treated? In Traditiona l
Chinese Medicine, we often talk about “the
root” (the cause) and “thebranch” (symptom)
a pproach to treatment. Obviously, if an xiety
is the cause, as long as it not resolved the
problem will keep c oming back. But when
a patient is suffering, our first goal is to
eliminate the pain to improve their quality
of life, then the next step is to address the
neurologic al c aus e of the problem.
Acupuncture can often be successful
in eliminating muscular spa sms within a
c ouple of treatments. In addition to loc al
a cupuncture points in the jaw, neck a nd
shoulders, it has also recently been observed
that tension in some of the lateral leg muscles
can restrict the mobility of the mouth, so all
these areas will need to be treated as well.
Person ally, I like to get people actively
involved in their recovery. While forcing the
mouth open to stretch the muscle should be
avoided, patients can ea sily be taught simple
massage techniques to release the masseter
muscle around the temporal mandible joint.
Stretching exercises of the neck a nd shoulders
when practised for even a few minutes every
day ca n make a world of difference.
Once the sufferer realises their
improvement is partly due to their own
ef forts, they discover they can have control
over their own body. For someone who
is suffering from anxiety, this feeling
of empowerment, a nd the resulting
psychological boost, ca n be even more
beneficial in the long term than the
acupunct ure and herbal treatments I will
be able to provide.
Then, my role a s a practitioner takes on
a nother dimension. It’s a s if I have bec ome
the mountain guide who leads his fellow
trekkers in the right direction, providing
the technical support on the way, in the
understanding that the hard walk to the
su mmit will still have to be a cc omplished
together at a suitable pac e for all involved.
In a way, this is probably how most forms of
medicine should be!
Olivier Lejus MHSc. (TCM), BHSc. (Acup.) is an
accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney.
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The human body is a very complex
instrument. Since I started
working as a Chinese medicine
practitioner over a decade ago, I
have been forever amazed at how much our
emotions can affect our health in so many
different ways. To illustrate this point, we
will look this month at an unusual disorder
that has become increasingly common in the
last decade. It is called Temporo-mandibular
Joint Dysf unction (TMJ), a nd, in most ca ses,
it is caused by long term emotional block ages.
‘Often the only evidence of
these nocturnal activities is an
unsuspected pain in the jaw,
or a terrible headache...’
While this problem can obviously be the
result of a physical injury like a whiplash
accident, or a heavy blow to the face, in
my experienc e, TMJ dysf unction is mainly
caused by emotional factors such as anxiety
a nd stress.
In one of my recent NOVA articles, I
wrote about the epidemic rise of an xiety
in our society. As we know, emotions are
s tored deep down in our subcon scious. In
this case, the build up of emotiona l tension
is manifested during the night causing ma ny
patients to grind their teeth while they a re
asleep. It is a problem that tends to occur
more frequently in women than men. Often
the situation is so bad that the sufferer ha s
to wear a mouth guard in bed to stop them
from wearing down their teeth, a nd from
keeping their partner awa ke with their
grinding throughout the night. The patient
is obviously totally unaware of what he, or
s he, is doing while asleep. Often the only
evidence of these nocturnal activities is an
u nsuspe cted pain in the jaw, or a terrible
headache when waking up in the morning.
In the early stages, TMJ dysfunction is
often manifested by a clicking, or grating
sound when opening the mouth. As the
muscle tension gradually builds up, the
a bility to open the jaw become s restricted.
An easy way of testing the range of
restriction in the TMJ joint is to get the
patient to insert the first three knuckles of
their hand vertically in their mouth. If they
a re unable to do this, it is a positive indication
of restriction of movement, a nd the presenc e
of active trigger points in the jaw muscle. At
this point, the patient will be complaining of
pain when they are yawning, or when they
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(TMJ), located just in front of our e ars
on either side of our jaw, performs a very
important function in our everyday lives.
By connecting the lower jaw (mandible) to
the skull (temporal bone) on both sides, it
allows us to move our mouth both up and
down, a nd from side to side when e ating,
ta lking or yawning. Often referred to as
the most used joint in the body, the TMJ
joint can be activated up to 2000 times per
day. When that joint and its surrounding
muscle s bec ome strained or damaged, the
repercus sions on our health can be severe.
Oriental practitioner Olivier LeJus suggests grinding your
teeth in your sleep can mask deep seated anxiety.
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