From Jaw to Pelvis
What does your neck and jaw pain have to do with your pelvic pain? … More than you realize.
Ideal posture would maintain the natural curves of our spine at the same time as it maximizes spinal length/height. The reality is that we spend much of our lives hunched over– whether that’s leaning forward to look at your computer screen, slouched over to scroll mindlessly through our phones, or allowing our bodies to sink deeply into a couch when relaxing after a long day.
This slouched posture changes both pelvic position and neck/jaw position, which is often why when we start experiencing symptoms at one end of the spine, it coincides with symptoms at the other. Spending more time in “ideal” postural positions is a great start to managing pain and flare ups in both the pelvis and neck.
We’ve all been there… big tests, dreaded meetings, the baby crying, or running 10 minutes late. Our body has a powerful and physiological response to stress. Our body shifts gear into “fight-or-flight” mode and it gets our heart rate pumping, our rate of breathing increases, and our nervous system ramps up. Reflexively our muscular system tenses up to guard against perceived potential harm.
This overactive state of the muscles, when occurring over a prolonged period of time, creates local muscle dysfunction such as tension, trigger points, and pain. Jaw clenching and elevated shoulders are a natural stress response, and so is clenching your pelvic floor muscles.
Management of your pressure system
Our trunk is essentially a series of pressure systems with pressure relief valves at the top and bottom. The glottis above and respiratory diaphragm below make up the first pressure system and then the respiratory diaphragm above and the pelvic floor below make up the second pressure system.
Closing our glottis or holding our breath seals the top of the first pressure system. We will often reflexively hold our breath and purposefully increase pressure (valsalva) when managing heavy loads. This maximized pressure in the first system puts downward force on the abdominal cavity. In order to stabilize the second system, we need to maximize pelvic floor contraction to prevent unwanted downward movement.
Conversely, keeping an open glottis during activity reduces pressure on the abdominal cavity. Inhaling or exhaling using low tone sounds keeps the glottis relaxed and helps maintain relaxation of the pelvic floor.