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Jaw Clenching, Acupressure and One of the Strangest Experiences I’ve Ever Had

Posted Jan 10 2012 12:16am

This is pretty much how I felt after an hour of having my head turned upside down, in more ways that one.

Dr. Dan* was not at all what I expected.

Like all good friendships and all bad screenplays, it started over polite chit-chat at a party. Somehow (probably because I am a chronic oversharer?) during the course of my conversation with a friend whom I see only twice a year at most but love twice as much when I do, the subject of bruxism or jaw clenching/grinding came up. I am an inveterate jaw clencher in my sleep. I’ve had to have my back teeth filled in so many times that my dentist doesn’t even bother to lecture me about it anymore. I’ve tried everything from supplements to self-hypnosis to try and stop. I even have a bite guard that I wear at night (sex-ay!) but while it helps with tooth grinding it doesn’t do much for clenching. Nothing has worked. But then my friend mentioned how her husband, who is a chiropractor that specializes in neuromuscular therapy, cured her bruxism with acupressure.

You may recall I have a torrid history with chiropract ors. My first and only visit to a chiropractor ended with me running screaming out of her office. I am terrified of them. And yet I’m also terrified of losing all my teeth by age 50. Plus I recently read a study that showed acupuncture to be quite effective with helping jaw issues and acupressure’s basically acupuncture without needles, right? She offered to have him work on my jaw right there at the party – talk about a get-to-know-you game! – but I opted to just make an appointment and go in like a normal person.

I should have known that whenever normal and I have a date, I get stood up.

When I arrived at his office the next week I was nervous but my friend had assured me it was just acupressure and some neck and face massage. No Exorcist-esque neck cracking. No Spanish Inquisition “drop tables.” And all was as promised for the first 20 minutes, the only weirdness being that he kept asking me if it hurt and I kept answering, “No, should it?” According to Dr. Dan, he’s scraped NFL linebackers off the ceiling from usinghalf as much pressure as he was using on me. (He works with the Minnesota Vikings doing injury rehab and yes you may touch my cheek. If you ask nicely.) Have the Minneosta Vikings ever done natural childbirth? But whatever. It didn’t hurt. It even felt kinda tingly and good!

And then he started pushing on each of the 5 pressure points on my jaw, telling me as he went that certain pressure points correspond with certain emotions. Unsurprisingly tension and anxiety are popular in the jaw and neck area. Then he stopped and exclaimed loudly, “Disgust!” I didn’t answer. It was so random I figured he was talking to someone else in the area. But he wasn’t. “This is strange. I almost never feel this one, and so pronounced too! You are holding onto a lot of disgust.”

“Excuse me?!” (Note: it’s really hard to talk when someone has their fingers jammed into your jaw.)

“Hmmm… yes. Disgust with yourself. And with someone else.” I didn’t answer at first. I couldn’t. But if I had to pick the one overarching feeling of all my recent, crazyintense PTSD attacks (doing MUCH better now, thanks for asking!) it would absolutely be disgust. Even beyond anger or fear or sadness. Disgust. Yes. Just as I was thinking about how uncanny that was he continued, “And food! Lots of disgust relating to food. Do you have food issues?”

I wanted to jump up and shriek, “Stop reading my brain, crazy man!!” But as he was holding my head in the Vulcan death grip it seemed wiser to just answer truthfully. “Actually I have a long history of eating disorders. But I’m good now.”

“Really? Because I’m feeling a lot of disgust with food right now.” He pushed on my jaw again. “Oh and uncross your legs please. Which part of what I said made you uncomfortable?” I hadn’t even realized that I had crossed my legs until he pointed it out. And yes, I did happen to be really uncomfortable at that moment.

“Are you… psychic?”

He laughed. “No. I prefer ‘intuitive’. Plus, chiropractors get really good at reading body language.”

At that point I figured I should just roll with it. If I’ve learned one thing over the past couple of months it’s that sometimes we are given gifts we don’t even know we need until we’re holding them. Everything happens for a reason. “Okay, you’re right,” I acquiesced. “I’ve been having a lot of PTSD (to his credit, he didn’t even bat an eyelash) and whenever that flares up my disordered eating thoughts get crazy too.” True story: I’d stress-eaten a ton of junk food that day (I even ate Oreos! And I HATE Oreos! They’re like brown cardboard sandwiched around trans-fat laced glue!) and had been rueing it ever since. So yeah, disgust fit the bill there too. Hoping I wasn’t the only person with all the lights on and windows open I had to ask, ”Are you able to do this with everyone?”

“No, just the ones that give me permission. You can hide it if you want to.” This will surprise exactly nobody but I suck at hiding things. Over the past month I have been trying really hard to hide that self-disgust and not just from my chiropractor. From myself. My surprise must have shown in my face because he answered, “Well I didn’t explicitly ask for permission but I figure I’ll ask the questions and if you’re open to it then you’ll answer.” Well, one might say I’m an open book (har!). I think that’s another super power I have .

“The mind, spirit and body are all so interconnected,” he explained. “So when one is injured it always affects the other two. And PTSD is a pretty serious injury.” It felt weird to think of it that way but it makes sense. Obviously when I’m anxious I tense my shoulders up or when I’m scared my stomach hurts so why would PTSD be any different? I may desperately want it to be disconnected from my body but it isn’t. Especially since the initial offense was against my body. (Not that I explained any of that to him. For all I know he thinks I just got back from Iraq. And God bless those soldiers with PTSD; I can see how it would make a person crazy and I haven’t suffered 1/10 what they have.) Then he taught me some breathing/relaxation type exercises that I could use with the acupressure on myself at home.

As I stood up to leave, he got one more zinger in. “Oh and don’t forget to drink a big dose of zinc when you get home! Your lymph nodes are all swollen and you’re coming down with something. Emergen-C is just as good as Airbourne and cheaper too!”

I’ll be darned if I didn’t wake up the next morning with a scratchy throat and a runny nose.

And? I also happened to be PMS’ing that day and was crazy bloated. Whatever he did it did something to my lymph system and I peed for like 10 minutes when I got home. I’d apologize for the TMI but really it shouldn’t even surprise you anymore.

So I went in for help with teeth clenching and ended up with not only a looser jaw but free therapy and got my PMS bloat cured to boot. Honestly you guys it was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in a long time and I’m still processing all of it – he recommended I read a book hilariously titled Feelings Buried Alive Never Die  - and it remains to be seen if it cures my bruxism but I think overall this trip to the chiropractor was a good thing.

Have you ever had anyone “read” you like that? Did it freak you out too? Anyone else grind/clench their teeth and have you found a way to cure it? Lastly, who else thinks Oreos are nasty? Cookies should be soft, not crunchy!

For any of you locals interested, Dr. Dan did a great job and I can totally hook you up!




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