by Margot Schaal, GCFP

Allison* had been living with neck pain for ten years by the time she arrived for her first Functional Integration® lesson with me. Bright-eyed and astute, Allison knew that there was a direct correlation between her daily stress level and the amount of neck pain she experienced. She also declared that she held herself rigidly, a common bodily response when confronted with difficult circumstances while one must continue to attend to life’s demands. We find a way to “hold it together,” right?

During the course of our lesson, we discovered that Allison was unable to move her lower jaw to the right or left. Although she hadn’t defined TMJ disorder as a problem, Allison told me about her habit of clenching her jaw. She also revealed on-going pain in her sacrum. We spent some time exploring the many ways the lower jaw can move.

At the end of the session, Allison was star struck by how different she felt. She was able to intentionally move her jaw right and left; her neck pain was reduced to a small irritation.

What happened?

The process of the lesson informed Allison’s nervous system of the relationship between the symptoms in her neck, to her jaw, and her sacrum. Feldenkrais® practitioners understand this relationship, yet many folks walking through life do not notice this critical connection between the top and the bottom of their spine and torso. And what resides at the top? Your head, including the upper jaw. Slightly in front of the mobile resting place where spine conjoins with head, your upper jaw links to the lower jaw at the temporomandibular joint.

Allison learned to rely on the support of her skeleton. By sensing this natural strength, she was able to leave behind the muscular rigidity that caused pain

Margot Schaal is a staff practitioner at the Feldenkrais Institute of New York.

*Name changed to protect anonymity.