East Bay Massage: Intra-Oral Craniosacral Therapy

I woke up a few days ago and my face was on crooked.

My son has been going through a phase of waking up four to five times a night and the lack of sleep was catching up with me. In the foggy sleeplessness of the three o’clock hour, I started clenching my teeth. Without realizing it, my body was closing the doors of my jaw the way I wished I could (but would never) close the door to my son’s room without opening it until morning.

When I woke up, the roof of my mouth felt like a misaligned gate. I became disconcertingly aware of what I would describe as the floor of my nose. The roof of my mouth ached. Even my right cheekbone felt sore. In this state, I was able to feel acutely how our facial bones fit together (or in this case, how mine weren’t fitting so well!). Some structures of the head are best palpated from inside the mouth– after all, the cranium is like a globe made from interlocking pieces. That makes certain bits hard to get to, except that the mouth provides us with a door to those inner-most bones. In cases like this, or in cases like TMJD, intra-oral work is the most direct way to make contact with these structures. (For those of you of an anatomical mind, the structures I’m referring to are the vomer, maxilla, zygoma, lateral pterygoids, and palatines of the sphenoid, among others.)

Off I went for some intra-oral craniosacral work. This kind of approach is gentle– not like getting your chops cleaned at the dentist. A fellow cranio therapist put on some gloves and made several contacts inside the mouth. She made sure that I was comfortable on the table and applied very light pressure (the weight of a nickle, people) to a series of bones inside the mouth. Spending a few minutes contacting the maxilla, for instance, allowed for the right side which had been so painfully jammed to find its happy place again. After a bit more room was created, other bones were able to float back into place.

We probably spent fewer than ten minutes doing this kind of cranial work, but the effects were quite noticeable. The roof of my mouth was no longer a closet door that had fallen off its hinges! The next day my face felt much closer to my ‘normal’– my cheekbone was not sore and (thank GOD because it creeped me out big time) the floor of my nose was no longer something I was so aware of. I am always humbled by the profound power of subtle techniques!

If you have symptoms associated with TMJD, tend to grind or clench your teeth, have suffered an injury to your jaw or face, get migraines, have recently had dental work, or have unusual discomfort, intra-oral cranial work is worth trying. It has helped me for sure, and the clients I work with tend to find the techniques effective not only in relieving symptoms, but in increasing body awareness, too.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

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