Jaw Aches to Headaches to Shoulder Pain

Jaw Aches to Headaches to Shoulder Pain: Understanding the Link

We use our jaw all day long. You’d think that you only use it when talking or chewing, but we do stuff with our jaw all day. Our jaws are very proprioceptive. When we focus or concentrate, it is common to clench our teeth. I am convinced that the reason smoking was so popular was because it was something that we could do with our jaw without gaining weight. There is a kinetic chain (how one muscle is connected to another muscle and another muscle) from our jaw to our neck to our shoulder to our arm, to our elbow, and to our hand. This means that when we are sitting in front of a computer, focusing and getting stressed, we can be clenching from our jaw into our neck into our shoulder and our elbow and hand.

The best way to describe it is this: You can make a fist and involve your hand. Now, you can make more of a fist and involve your hand, elbow, and shoulder. Now, you can make even more of a fist and involve your hand, elbow, shoulder, neck, and jaw. That’s why powerlifters are taught to grit their teeth- it closes down and tights up their kinetic chain, allowing them to get the most out of their muscles. If you have a shoulder issue (pain, dysfunction, injury, etc) and you clench or grind your teeth, you won’t be able to get rid of your shoulder issue unless you address your tight jaw. The same applies to your neck; if you have a neck issue and clench your jaw, it would be best to treat your jaw to relieve neck pain.

Does your jaw lock? Does it pop or click? Does it get stuck? Does it cause pain? Does it pop out of the socket? Do you have pain around the jaw? All of these are symptoms of TMJ-D (Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction). The TMJ is the joint that your jaw hinges on. You will feel the TMJ moving if you put your fingers just in front of your ears and open your jaw. If you have pain associated with the TMJ, there are a few tricks you can employ to treat it. First, if your dentist says you are grinding your teeth down, get one of those expensive, $500-$700 a night or bite guards. They are costly but worth it. It is a hard plastic that discourages you from chewing.

The less expensive sports mouthguards that you can get at Dicks will be soft plastic or rubber, which encourages chewing or grinding. Even if you grind through one of those expensive night or bite guards and have to bite the bullet (pun intended) and buy another bite guard, it will be worth it. I have heard from many patients that getting caps on your teeth is rough. It is expensive, time-consuming, and painful. If you can avoid grinding down your teeth with a bite guard, even 2, it will be worth it in the long run. Yawning is the best stretch for your jaw if you can feel yourself grinding or clenching. Don’t yawn to the end range if your jaw is tight and sore. It might get stuck if you do.

Listen to your body slowly yawn and stretch your jaw open. Place both index fingers on the outside bottom corner of your jaw. Move your index fingers forward and up about an inch. They should be below the cheekbone and on a big muscle. This muscle is called the masseter. You can treat it by feeling around for the tight and irritated areas and lightly pressing on both sides at the same time. You can also touch all your fingers to your skull, above your ears. Slowly work them up towards the top of your head. Press on these lightly if you feel sore spots or stringy muscles. These are trigger points in the temporalis muscle. Treating the temporalis and masseter muscles will help to alleviate jaw, head, and neck pain on most people.
If you try home treatment and you are not able to alleviate your pain, then come to my center for trigger point therapy (Nimmo, Receptor Tonus) and deep tissue laser therapy. They will both help heal your TMJ-D and get it back working, moving, and functional.

You can also check out my blogs at www.cohentriggerpoint.com. There is one in particular (with videos) on how to treat your TMJ at home.

Have a Pain Free Day.

Pain Between The Shoulders

In our modern society, we are all overusing our hands and all the muscles and joints attached to them. That includes the forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck, and possibly even the jaw. Kids these days call that a kinetic chain. It is how our muscles are attached and work together. You never have one muscle moving separately from everything else.

All of the muscles in our bodies work together. Physical therapists call it regional interdependence. It’s how one area of our body affects another location and another area. I like the saying that you never have a chance to do a bench press in the real world. We are never just using our pec muscles. We use them with other muscles to move our shoulders and arms. This is a long-winded way of saying that pain between your shoulder blades probably does not come from the rhomboids.

Cell phones are ubiquitous. Everyone has one, and everyone uses them. Whether you are in front of the computer or steering wheel or looking down at your phone, we are all hunching over and looking down way too much. We are doing it so much that it is reshaping our skeletons. Before the pandemic, there was a study that caused people to get upset. The study showed that kids were growing horns on the back of their heads from looking down at their screens so much.

Kids were growing bone spurs on the back of their heads, at the base of the skull, from the pressure of leaning their heads over and looking down for hours on end. We are all hunching over and looking down way too much. This causes our shoulder blades to come up to our ears and tightens the entire kinetic chain from our neck into our hands. Where you get pain along that chain is anyone’s guess.

Areas of previous injury are much more likely to flare again. If you injured your arm or shoulder, looking down on your lap or doing too much computer work can bring back that old injury. If you have pain between your shoulder blades, the rhomboid will be involved, but other muscles will also contribute to it. The subscapularis is the primary muscle that causes pain between the shoulder blades. The subscapularis is a rotator cuff muscle inside the shoulder blade, between the shoulder blade and ribs underneath it. The primary motion of the subscapularis is shoulder retraction. The muscle pulls your shoulder blades back and down. When you are hunching, your shoulder blades come up to your ears and will pinch and pull on most muscles in the shoulder, upper back, and arm. The subscapularis can pull on the ribs between the shoulder blades and cause pinching pain or prevent rib movement, which can cause pain when breathing in.

How do you prevent this pinching and pulling of the shoulder blades?

-Watch how you sit:

Sit with a small, rounded pillow in the small of your back, and lean backward. You can roll up a towel into a cylinder form and put some tape or rubber bands around it to hold it in place, then set it in the small of your back whenever you are sitting. Lean back so that your upper back is touching the chair. This will keep you in an excellent neutral position by maintaining the curvature of the spine. You should be able to sit comfortably like this for a while. But I wouldn’t sit for longer than an hour without getting up.


A good stretch for this area is to start standing up. You take your painful arm (right side for explanation) and put it behind your back, palm out. Try to touch the bottom of your left shoulder blade with your right fingers, palm still pointing backward. Once you get it as high up your back as you can comfortably (no pushing or jerking), lean back against a wall. It is one of the best stretches for our upper back and shoulders that I have seen. If you try this stretch and try to change how you sit, and you are still having pain between your shoulder blades, then I would seek out a chiropractor who specializes in soft tissue/ muscle injuries. The Nimmo/ receptor Tonus Technique is a significant soft tissue technique for reducing and healing muscle injuries. Deep Tissue Therapy lasers also treat shoulder and rotator cuff muscle injuries well. If you have shoulder pain, come in for a treatment, I can help.

Have a Pain Free Day.

Do You Have Shoulder Pain?

Do you have shoulder pain?

Were you told that your infraspinatus was causing the pain?

Did you even know that you had an infraspinatus?

If you are like most people who are not trained in health care, then chances are, you have no idea of what an infraspinatus is, or what it does, and even more importantly,
Why is it causing this much pain? Your infraspinatus is one of four rotator cuff muscles that we all have. The rotator cuff muscles are four small muscles that hold your arm bone (humerus) in your shoulder joint (the A-C joint). In our modern society, where everyone uses their phones and in front of computers all day, we use our shoulder and rotator cuff muscles way too much and in bad ways. Every minute we are hunching over our phone, keyboard or steering wheel, our shoulders are tightening up.

What is tightening up in our shoulders?

The shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. Muscles can get so tight that they can tear on a microscopic level and go into spasm.
This is what a sprain or, train or muscle pull is. But once you tear a muscle, no matter how small of a tear, you will not just stretch it out.
When muscles go into spasm, they are like steel cables. You aren’t going to stretch them out once and be done with it.
The muscle pull will get wired into your system and become a neurological problem.

How do you treat rotator cuff injuries?

Trigger point therapy is one of the best ways to break muscles out of the neurological patterns of spasms and inflammation that they can fall into.
Good trigger point therapy (Nimmo Receptor Tonus) will help to break up the neurological patterning that perpetuates the pain muscle spasm. It will activate the muscles and get them to loosen up and move normally. This will prime you to do physical therapy and strengthen the injured muscles, further stabilizing the area.
If you try to strengthen injured muscles without releasing and healing them, you will be driving that pain and dysfunction deeper into your system, making it harder to work out.
The saying that I like is that you don’t want to add strength on top of instability. Another tool that I utilize to speed up healing and reduce inflammation is cold laser therapy.
Cold laser therapy is a red light that is produced by a laser. The laser is hot but not hot enough to burn through anything it touches, like a surgical laser.
A cold laser will penetrate the muscle an inch deep and produce healing. It helps to speed up the healing process by strengthening the cell walls of the muscle cells.
It also reduces inflammation.

Red light works well on muscle and joint and arthritis pain. It is one of the few ways to get into stenotic vertebral joints and reduce deep nerve root inflammation.
Trigger point therapy, combined with cold laser therapy, is one of the best ways, and fastest ways to reduce joint pain and muscle pain and speed up healing.
If you have a rotator cuff issue, infraspinatus tendonitis, or injury, come see me for pain relief.

Have a Pain Free Day!