Jaw, Tongue & Pelvic Floor: It is All Connected - Legacy Physical Therapy
Call to Schedule (636) 225-3649

Jaw, Tongue & Pelvic Floor: It is All Connected

Jaw Tongue Pelvic Floor Blog

The human body is a complex and interconnected system where various components work together to maintain balance and function. Surprisingly, the relationship between seemingly unrelated areas, such as the jaw, tongue, and pelvic floor offers a holistic perspective on how our body functions as a unified entity. 

Tongue Tie & Jaw Issues

The jaw and tongue are integral components of our oral cavity, playing crucial roles in functions like speech, breathing, and swallowing. A tongue tie occurs when the strip of skin beneath the tongue (lingual frenulum) restricts the tongue’s range of motion. This limitation can lead to compensatory movements and postures in the jaw, affecting overall oral function.

The intricate relationship begins to unfold as individuals with tongue ties may develop compensatory patterns in their jaw movements, leading to misalignments and tension. Over time, these patterns can contribute to issues like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, headaches, and facial pain.

TMJ is a chronic pain condition where dysfunction in the joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull leads to pain and tenderness. TMJ dysfunction may result in pain that’s located only in these joints or it can cause more widespread pain.

As many as 12% of all people may experience TMJ dysfunction. TMJ issues are also about twice as common among people assigned female at birth, which speaks to how common it can be for us to hold tension in our bodies. (We will see this theme come back up as it relates to the pelvic floor)

Connecting the Dots to the Pelvic Floor:

The myofascial system is a network of connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles and organs throughout the body. When dysfunction occurs in one area, it can create a ripple effect throughout the myofascial system. Individuals with jaw and tongue tie issues may develop compensatory patterns that extend down through the neck, shoulders, and eventually impact the pelvic floor. Chronic tension in the jaw and neck can contribute to altered pelvic floor muscle function, potentially leading to conditions like pelvic pain, incontinence, or even sexual dysfunction.

The connection between the jaw, tongue, and pelvic floor is further emphasized through the role of breathing patterns. Dysfunction in the jaw and tongue can influence breathing habits, potentially leading to shallow or inefficient breathing. This, in turn, can impact the diaphragm and core muscles, including those in the pelvic floor.

Recognizing the interconnected nature of these areas allows for a more comprehensive approach to health and well-being. Addressing issues in one region can positively impact the others. For individuals experiencing symptoms related to jaw, tongue, and pelvic floor dysfunction, a multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare professionals such as dentists and pelvic floor physical therapists can be beneficial.

Pelvic floor physical therapists see regular evidence of this connection when treating patients with tight pelvic floors who also complain of jaw tension. A history of injury, inflammation, or pain, can lead to what’s called ‘guarding’ — where our muscles brace and hold to protect us from a perceived threat. That’s what’s happening when you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, and that’s what’s happening when your pelvic floor muscles are unable to fully relax.

While more research is needed, studies have found links between chronic pelvic pain, which is often caused by pelvic floor dysfunction, and chronic jaw pain which is often caused by TMJ dysfunction. For example, a 2023 study involving 128 people with endometriosis found a correlation between endometriosis-related chronic pelvic pain and TMJ joint pain.

There may also be differences in posture among people with TMJ dysfunction, which could impact the pelvic floor. One 2017 study found that among 243 participants ages 10-15 seeking dental care services, muscular TMJ dysfunction was significantly associated with differences in spinal curves, head posture, and lower limbs.

Understanding the intricate connection between the jaw, tongue, and pelvic floor opens doors to holistic healthcare approaches. If you’re experiencing symptoms like chronic jaw tension, headaches, pelvic pain, or urinary incontinence, it’s essential to recognize the potential interplay between these areas of the body.

Our team at Legacy Physical Therapy specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy and is here to support you on your journey to better health. Whether you’re struggling with TMJ dysfunction, pelvic floor issues, or both, we offer personalized treatment plans tailored to your unique needs. Take the first step towards relief and improved well-being by reaching out to us today at 636-225-3649. Don’t let discomfort hold you back from living your best life.