The Fascial Network: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

Written by: Dr. Jessica Papa, PT, DPT


Hey Arancia Fam! In this week’s blog, we will be discussing the importance of therapy of the craniosacral mechanism and TMJ. It is important to seek treatment for this jaw joint and the surrounding muscles, as they can have a widespread impact on your health and well-being. 

Therapy of the craniosacral mechanism, which contains the temporomandibular joint, is very important. Having distortion or restrictions of cranial motion can cause illness until the physiological balance is restored. Palpating it into a symmetrical balance can even create a general feeling of well-being. This is because, the living brain moves in a physiological cycle.

As the anteroposterior dimension of the brain shortens, the lateral dimension widens. When the lateral dimension shortens, the anteroposterior dimension lengthens. The driving force of the entire craniosacral mechanism comes from this inherent motion. The origin of this motion is unknown, but it may be indirectly related to the life force and vital energy of the human system. 


Cranial Mechanism

A patient with craniomandibular dysfunction may experience unusual head and neck symptoms. This discomfort can be a result of head or neck trauma. Each accident in a patient’s life can have a distorting and restricting effect on the cranial mechanism. Accidents create tension in the cranial dural membranes and disrupt the cranial bone motion. This tighter mechanism causes pressure on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves resulting in many symptoms and a more restricted craniosacral mechanism. 

Authentic Myofascial Release treatment for the Craniosacral Mechanism and the TMJ structure includes gentle manipulation of the cranial tissues to release the tension in the mechanism. Specific palpation of the bones, acting as levers, will also release tension.  This will direct the cranial tissues into a position of greater ease and less stress. Afterward, individual bones will feel more symmetrical and mobile.

Some common conditions that can respond to treatment of the cranial system: 

  • Headaches
  • Neck Pain
  • “Fibro fog”
  • Decreased concentration and memory
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Neurological symptoms such as tone, tremors, numbness/ tingling

Home Exercises for TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an integral part of the craniosacral mechanism. In addition to receiving Myofascial Release treatment, home exercises can be beneficial. 


  • Use your fingers to apply pressure into and release tight areas of the jaw, cheek, temple area, and head. Place your palms on your cheeks in front of your ears. Softly compress your hands into your cheeks, gently pulling your jaw downward. Be sure not to slide on the skin when pulling down.
  • Rest fingers on the lower jaw and gently pull down.
  • Press fingertips gently into jaw muscles. Hold for 2-5 minutes to allow for several releases. 


TMJ (Jaw) Release
  • Place the fingers of each hand on the skin directly in from top the ears and allow the palms to rest on the cheeks. Thumbs are behind the ears. 
  • Gently compress your face/jaw and pull down by using the weight of your relaxed arms. Allow your jaw to soften and open slightly. You may feel a stretch at the jaw, ear, temple, or head. 
  • Hold for 5 minutes to allow a release to occur. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Place your elbows on a table or your knees if needed. 
  • This is helpful for jaw pain and dysfunction, face pain and headaches. 


Maxillary Release
  • The maxilla forms parts of the sinuses and can be effective in addressing sinus pressure and facial pain. 
  • Sit and place your elbows on a table. Rest your cheekbones on the heels of your hands and apply gentle pressure up and out. 
  • Hold for 5 minutes. 


Ear Pull Release

The ear pull technique releases the temporal bones which house the inner ear. In addition to being a handle for releasing the cranial fascia and dural systems, it is a helpful technique for addressing tinnitus, hearing issues, and dizziness/ vertigo. 

  • Sit and place your elbows on a table.
  • With your thumb and index finger, firmly grasp your lower ear where it attaches to your head.
  • Pull outwards on both ears, then allow your head to hang down towards the table as though reading a book. 
  • Hold for 5 minutes to allow for releases to occur. 

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