As Physical Therapists who care about finding the root cause of dysfunction, we’re acutely aware of how different systems work together. Sadly, it’s common in orthopedic practice to get tunnel vision, looking at one structure in isolation from others. Unfortunately, that also results in poorer outcomes for the client.

Understanding these connections between systems is extremely important as there is a strong link between the pelvic floor and the foot (watch this video to learn more) and the pelvic floor and jaw! Interestingly enough, not everyone is going to present with symptoms in either of these places but that doesn’t mean there isn’t underlying dysfunction.

Why is this important?

No matter what body part we are treating, we need to ensure that the pelvic floor is functioning properly otherwise we’ll miss the mark as it is such a significant component of the core. We have a saying in physical therapy: “proximal stability creates distal mobility.” In other words, the stronger and more coordinated we are through our midbody, the more freedom of movement we have in our limbs. When we have good control through the midbody, we can do more with arms and legs. Conversely, if we don’t have good control/coordination, we often lose strength and range of motion through limbs.

So when individuals present with pain somewhere in the periphery, it’s our job to determine where that started– a la— screening the pelvic floor!

How are the Jaw and Pelvic Floor Connected

The relationship between the jaw and the pelvic floor might seem surprising, but these two areas of the body are intricately connected through the concept of fascial chains and the body’s overall muscular and postural systems. Here’s a breakdown of the relationship:

Anatomical Connections

Fascial Chains

    • The fascia is a web of connective tissue that runs throughout the body, linking muscles, organs, and other tissues. It connects distant parts of the body in a network.
    • The deep front line, one of the fascial chains described by Thomas Myers in his book “Anatomy Trains,” connects the jaw and the pelvic floor. This line includes muscles and fascia that run from the bottom of the feet up through the inner thighs, pelvic floor, diaphragm, and all the way up to the jaw.

Muscle Coordination:

  • The muscles in the jaw (such as the masseter and temporalis) and the pelvic floor muscles both play roles in posture and core stability.
  • When there is tension or dysfunction in the jaw, it can affect overall body posture, which in turn can influence the pelvic floor and vice versa.

Functional Connections

Breathing and Core Stability:

    • Proper breathing mechanics involve coordinated movement between the diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and pelvic floor.
    • Tension in the jaw can lead to improper breathing patterns, which can stress the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles, disrupting their function and coordination.

Stress and Tension:

      • Stress often manifests physically through muscle tension, and the jaw and pelvic floor are common areas where this tension accumulates.
      • Chronic jaw clenching or grinding (bruxism) can lead to tightness in the neck and shoulders, which can cascade down the body affecting the pelvic floor muscles.
      • Similarly, pelvic floor dysfunctions, such as pelvic pain or incontinence, can create stress and tension that might lead to jaw clenching.

    Nervous System:

        • Both the jaw and pelvic floor are rich with sensory and motor nerves. The trigeminal nerve (which supplies the jaw) and the pudendal nerve (which supplies the pelvic floor) are both involved in responses to stress and relaxation.
        • The body’s stress response can cause both jaw clenching and pelvic floor tightening simultaneously, illustrating their interconnectedness through the autonomic nervous system.

      Clinical Implications

      Holistic Treatment Approaches:

        • Addressing pelvic floor issues might involve assessing and treating the jaw, especially if there are signs of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
        • Conversely, treating TMJ problems might involve assessing pelvic floor health, particularly if there is chronic pelvic pain or dysfunction.

      Postural Assessments:

          • Clinicians often consider the whole body’s posture when treating either jaw or pelvic floor issues to ensure that the underlying causes are addressed rather than just the symptoms.

        Understanding the relationship between the jaw and the pelvic floor underscores the importance of a holistic approach in physical therapy and overall wellness. By considering these connections, practitioners can provide more effective and comprehensive care.

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