Monday, October 10, 2005

an experiment

For years, I've had a problem with clenching my teeth. Mostly, I just do it while I'm sleeping, but I also catch myself doing it often when I'm stressed or worried. I know lots of singers with the same problem -- I'm not sure whether it's more common with us, or whether it's just a common problem in general. It's terrible for my teeth, and not so good for my singing or general well-being either, as it causes the muscles in my neck and shoulders to tense, and gives me headaches when it's at its worst. Last week I was particularly busy, and there were some fairly stressful H&G rehearsals, and I noticed my teeth were mashed together so tightly when I got up in the morning that I felt like I had to pry them apart.

My sister, who is an amazing massage therapist, is currently being trained by a shiatsu master. (I imagine it to be a Mr. Miagi/Karate Kid kind of relationship.) She has regular lessons with him, and since she's begun her training, her outlook on many things, particularly diet and medicine, has changed drastically. She was giving me a massage the other night, and briefly rubbed my jaw. I winced in pain and she asked if this was a normal occurence. Then, she said, "After your massage, I'll work on that a little. I can make it so that you won't clench your jaw anymore." I was extremely skeptical. Apparently, clenching my jaw is a manifestation of stress (big surprise), but the reason I clench my jaw as opposed to any other physical manifestation of stress is that my circulation (which seems to be at the center of the theories behind shiatsu) around that area of my body is not good, and I clench to try to move blood through. After my 80-minute, heavenly, relaxing massage, as I was ready to drift off in to blissful slumber for the night, she told me to sit up on the table, and rubbed my jaw in quick, half-moon motions. I tell you, it was perhaps the most excruciatingly painful experience of my life -- for about 5 seconds, and then the pain disappeared. We repeated this, her rubbing, me whimpering, in three different places on each side of my jaw, and then around the back of my head. OUCH! But, afterward, I did feel better. The muscles all the way down my neck had released, and my head moved freely from side to side in a way that felt slightly foreign to me.

She told me that it would take a few more sessions for me to stop clenching entirely, so I'm going to see her again on Thursday. Already, I've noticed that I've all but stopped clenching during the day, and I can tell by the way my jaw feels when I wake up that even the night-time clenching has been greatly reduced. If this works, it will be a miracle -- I've actually bitten through night guards! I'll let you know.


Ariadne said...

Wo! Me too!! BIG TIME!!! Wo, yes, this is seriously amazing.

I've had this since about the 3rd year of formal, one-on-one, professional voice lessons, which was early college. (And those of us who played flute before have this in spades...!)

Can you ask her, please, what this technique is called? Perhaps Mr. Miyagi will consent ... so I can find it locally?

Melissa said...

That's very interesting! I was a flutist as well! Hmmmmmmm.....

I will ask her, to see whether it's a specific technique, or just general shiatsu.

Beth said...

Hmmm.. it's not just a singer thing. I have the same problem. I have noticed that when I can afford a massage therapist, I always have them work on my jaw and it always helps. Keep us posted!

jayred said...

Interesting read. I suffer from the same problem, although I'm not singer. One time, orthodentist said it was probably due to a severe case of anxiety. She said this 12 years ago, and I still suffer from teeth grinding when I'm asleep. If massage therapy can help, I might as well give it a try. Thanks for sharing your insights on this one!

Anonymous said...

ERRATUM: "...I'm not A singer."
"MY orthodentist..."
My apologies.

Gia-Gina said...

Me three! And the hubby too. Let me know if this works.

Anonymous said...

I do it too!
I never knew so many people who did it also!
And yes, I'm a singer.