I find that people often conflate orofacial myofunctional therapy and myofascial release. They are two different things, but there is some overlap.

Orofacial myofunctional therapy is a hierarchical series of exercises and activities to establish the habituation of good muscle memory patterns for the facial functions of chewing, swallowing, speaking without deviation patterns, breathing, and rest without clenching, grinding, or bracing. While orofacial myology typically involves the goals of a consistent good oral rest position and balanced chewing and swallowing, we often find that oral myology treatment can have other lesser recognized benefits. It may promote normal growth & development of the structures of the face and may indirectly address other relevant problems such as sleep-breathing and muscular TMJ pain (hopefully through prevention).

With myofunctional therapy, we focus on muscle function, but fascia also surrounds each and every muscle fiber in your body. “Kinks” in the fascia can also prevent proper muscle function and have been associated with pain.

Fascia is a solid/liquid communicative, structural, and adaptive network that extends throughout your entire body. I know that fascia wasn’t covered in depth during my anatomy class in college, but it is so important. It was something that was (for the most part) overlooked until recently. We now know that it’s not just something surgeons or anatomists cut through to get to other body parts…. It’s now been established as an organ, and there’s probably a lot more to the fascial network that we don’t know just yet.

Sometimes myofascial release therapy is incorporated into orofacial myofunctional therapy. Some providers, like myself, have received extra training on the treatment of fascial restrictions. Myofascial release is basically prolonged strategic touch applied to release restrictions in the fascial network. When someone presses on the skin, your brain sends messages back to your body, directing it to make changes in the fascia and muscles.

The truth is that both myofascial release therapy and orofacial myofunctional therapy can be integral components in the treatment of TMJ pain. Surgery is only effective on a very small portion of the population and should be only considered as a last resort.