A Life of Neck and Shoulder Pain
Ever since fifth grade I have struggled with neck and shoulder tension, with burning, aching sensations and rock hard muscles. I have seen chiropractors regularly since my thirties, have had massages, done yoga, meditated, used an inversion bed, a foam roller, a theracane, and made numerous attempts to relax those neck and shoulder muscles. Nothing worked.
Clenched Jaw, Grinding Teeth
Dentists have told me for maybe twenty years that I was grinding my teeth. I didn't believe them. I did wake up with clenched jaws quite often, but no, not me, not grinding! I had zero awareness of grinding, therefore it could not be true!
About four years ago, I noted that my lower front teeth had worn away to reveal an underlayer behind sharp, slanted edges. I reluctantly acknowledged that maybe I was grinding my teeth in my sleep after all.
But I didn't want to spend a few hundred dollars for a mouthguard fitted by the dentist. My off-again, on-again frugality struck here.
Gingerly experimenting, I bought a bite-wing version of a mouthguard at Walmart for about $29. I didn't have to bite into hot plastic, just insert the small device and go to sleep.
Wow! After three nights, I woke with my neck and shoulders more relaxed than in years. Not perfect, but so much better.
Over the years, several chiropractors had suggested that I sleep with a neck roll pillow, or even a rolled up towel, under my neck, to improve the curvature of my cervical spine. I tried a few times, but found the lump of pillow under my neck much too uncomfortable and quickly gave it up.
After a few months of using the bite-wings and savoring morning relaxation, I remembered the suggestion for a cervial pillow. Maybe I was relaxed enough to tolerate it now.
I put a small roll-shaped pillow under my neck and slept comfortably. I have used it ever since. I wake up a little more relaxed. My chiropractor says the curve of my neck has improved and he can do better adjustments.
What does this have to do with inner peace?
I already meditated or did spiritual exercises daily. For forty years. I used positive affirmations, prayer, and many other techniques to support health and well-being on all levels. I had a pretty good level of personal peace going.
Control: The Master Addiction
But the body-mind connection is powerful. Once I added the bite-wing mouthguard, more strategies became possible. As I implemented the neck pillow and professional mouthguard, the level of letting go increased.
I see that when I let go the clenched jaw, I also let go of some of my very human control issues. My dear friend John-Roger used to say that control is the master addiction.
I still deal with control issues. But overall, I am more accepting of just how things are -- with myself, my husband, various friends, our chaotic world. I experience more inner peace every day. I also give myself more freedom to be authentic and speak my truth in an easy flow.
Alignment of Consciousness
Consistently relaxing my jaw helped create better alignment of my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of consciousness. The inner peace that I have quested for and cultivated for so many years now has room to manifest in my body as well as my mind.
Relaxation of the body makes it easier to stay present, relaxed and peaceful in my mind. My mind and body match and there is more room for spiritual inner awareness. I find it easier to maintain my inner peace.
Your Clenched Jaw and Control Tendencies
- Do you clench your jaw? Notice when and where. Day? Night? Grinding teeth might also be a symptom. Aching tight jaws are another.
- Do you experience extreme or persistent neck and shoulder tension not relieved by chiropractic care or physical therapy? This may or may not be related to jaw tension.
- Do you long for more inner peace? Are you continually struggling with tension and stress?
- Do you struggle with letting go of being "in control"? Are you even aware that you have control issues? We all do. We very much want things our own way but have learned (hopefully) to compromise and work things out in most cases. But there can be a toll in stress which shows up in the body, including as a clenched jaw or tight neck and shoulders.
Five Options to Release Tension and Control
Your clenched jaw or neck and shoulder tension might be part of a pattern that keeps you holding onto control and slipping out of your inner peace. If you have these symptoms, you might experiment with one of the following approaches as I did. Always check with your doctor or health practitioner before starting a new regime like this.
- Try a mouthguard, over the counter or from your dentist. There are several types available. My dental hygienist first alerted me to the possibility of an over-the-counter version, so you could ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
- Try a cervical pillow under your neck. My favorite at present is a cotton knit poncho, rolled up, rubber banded and tucked into a small pillow case that I made from an old sheet. It is firmer than a pillow stuffed with batting. It fits under my neck for back sleeping and supports my head if I sleep on my side. Most commercial cervical pillows are too big for my comfort.
- Explore gentle neck and jaw stretching exercises. I am now do gentle and restorative yoga classes and repeat neck stretching at home while doing affirmations. You can do these in your favorite chair, while watching TV, at stop lights, etc.
- For more inner peace, explore earlier articles on this site about meditation, stress relief, and personal peace.
- To release control issues on all levels, discover your true Self, your spiritual self or Soul, and do your best to live from that place inside. Observe situations and choose the most loving response to make. Let your body, mind and spirit come into alignment and attunement with the peace of your Soul. Practice self-forgiveness, self-nurturing, and self-acceptance. Give that same level of acceptance to others. This is a lifetime commitment, so be gentle with yourself in the process. Read my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps for Personal and Planetary Transformation for many more techniques for a more balanced and fulfilling life.