The jaw joint, just like the hip and shoulder joints, is a ball and socket joint. What people do not realize is the correlation between the jaw joint, the pelvis joint, proprioception (knowledge of where you are in space at any given time), and how that directly influences pelvic stability. With the pelvis being the ‘house’ that the pelvic floor is the ‘floor’ of, the connection between the jaw joint and pelvis is much closer than most realize.
How Is The Jaw Connected To The Pelvis?
The jaw joint is related to the pelvis through an intricate network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that make up the myofascial system. This connection is much more complex than most realize and involves the following:
The craniosacral system involves the entire network connecting the head (cranium) to the base of the spine (sacrum). It includes the skull, facial bones, neck, and sacral area (at the lower end of the spine). Treatment modalities such as cransio-sacral therapy sometimes provide relief from pain. When in collaboration with other clinicians it can be helpful in treating the jaw as a contributor to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Muscles and Ligaments:
The main joint of the jaw is the TMJ or temporomandibular joint. This is where the lower jaw (mandible) connects to the temporal bone of the skull. Several muscles are involved in jaw movements, such as the masseter, temporalis, and lateral pterygoid. An imbalance of these muscles results in the TMJ positioning and functionality becoming compromised. With the fascia connecting the jaw to the pelvis, this lack of functionality plays a roles in ‘tweaking’ the pelvis stability. When the ‘house’ that the pelvic floor is the ‘floor’ of is compromised, issues arise.
The muscles of the neck, including the sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles, have attachments that connect to the jaw. Therefore, they can influence jaw posture and function. This directly influences the posture and with poor posture comes modification of breathing and instability of the pelvis.
Myofascial tissues include muscles and their surrounding fascia. They form a continuous network, connecting the head, neck, and upper part of the spine to the rest of the body. Tensions or imbalances in this myofascial system can impact jaw and pelvic stability.
Nervous System Connections:
There are 2 main nerves that are directly influenced by the jaw joint:
- Trigeminal Nerve: The trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) plays a vital role in jaw function. It controls sensory and motor functions of the face, including the jaw muscles. When not functioning correctly, this indirectly impacts the muscles of the neck which influences the fascia and the posture.
- Vagus Nerve: The vagus nerve (cranial nerve X) influences various bodily functions, including those related to the pelvic floor. It communicates with the jaw area, contributing to the interconnectedness of these regions. The vagus nerve is directly involved in breathing which strongly influences the stability of the pelvis and pelvic floor. You can find more in my blog called: “Breathing Right for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction“.
Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense its position in space. The jaw and surrounding muscles are equipped with proprioceptive receptors that provide information about jaw position and movement.
Disruption of the proprioceptive feedback due to jaw dysfunction can influence pelvic and postural stability. Balance, coordination, and stability happen when the connection between the head, neck, pelvis, and ankles all lineup. With a dysfunctional jaw and instability in the neck muscles, this line of connection is no longer ideal! The result is that the center of gravity shifts, pelvis alignment alters, and pelvic floor dysfunction from pelvic instability occurs.
With the two types of myofascial chains. The posterior chain connects the muscles and fascia from the head, neck, and upper back to the pelvis. This influences posture and stability. Meanwhile, the anterior myofascial chain connects the chest and neck down to the pelvis. Tension in these chains impacts both the jaw and pelvic areas.
What Does Holistic Jaw Treatment Look Like?
Consider an individual with hyper-mobility, which is a commonly seen population in my practice, with both jaw pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. Please note that while not every person with pelvic floor dysfunction is hyper-mobile, all hyper-mobile individuals have pelvic floor dysfunction because their issue is instability.
Every person coming to my practice with neck and jaw pain is assessed for hyper-mobility and pelvic floor dysfunction. Why? Because almost everyone with jaw issues has postural instability of different degrees. With 40% of the proprioception coming from how the head sits on the neck and the jaw being a part of the head, any degree of dysfunction at this joint influences the level of postural stability.
Tailored Treatment Plan:
While everyone’s findings are unique to that individual, when it comes to the jaw and pelvic floor dysfunction, the overall outline of the treatment plan starts with breathing. Which is the foundation for so many different functions in the body other than the actual sustenance of life. We then proceed with soft tissue manipulation of the neck and jaw (internal) followed by face, toes, and ankle functionality. Because their lack of proper performance directly influences the stability of the whole body. Then we proceed with developmental movement exercises as outlined by DNS.
We give special focus to improving proprioception. This involves postural neurology exercises, balance exercises, awareness drills, and techniques that enhance the connection between the jaw, neck, and pelvis.
Over time, the individual experiences relief from both jaw pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. As the jaw’s function and posture improve, overall body stability, including the pelvis, is enhanced.
To maintain long-term health and prevent recurring issues, it’s important to continue exercises and practices that promote stability and proprioception. This should be done by the individual based on what they do at the clinic which we have kept a record of through the app that our patients have access to. We recommend a quarterly checkup to ensure continuity in progress.
If you have pelvic floor dysfunction or jaw pain, do not hesitate to contact us.