The Alexander Technique and burning mouth syndrome
Busy tongue seeking calm tongue!
After a tooth infection and root canal re-do of a back tooth last year I developed “burning mouth syndrome” which is exactly that: a burning sensation in the mouth, plus a numb tongue and odd sensations in my mouth. Fortunately it is settling but never-the-less I have become obsessed with “fiddling” with my back tooth. It went from fiddling one side, to sucking my cheek one side, to sucking my cheek both sides, to biting my tongue. I was causing sore spots and lots of pain and I felt I wasn’t in charge and I just couldn’t stop!
I have been applying a number of approaches. Holding a pencil between my teeth worked well as I couldn’t actually do all those things with separated teeth, but it’s hard to talk and produces lots of drooling.
Of course I have been applying the Alexander Technique to it all these months in a rather half hearted way. The discomfort of the facial sensations from the nerve irritation kept drawing me back.
One day last week, I got so fed up of the habit, I realised it just had to stop. I set a firm intention to stop. Thus this week’s project has been my tongue & mouth.
I started by doing nothing. Each time I noticed the habit I stopped what I was doing both mentally and physically and noticed the world around me: the kettle, cups and tea ready to pour, the bubbles of washing up liquid and the sink of pots, the office as I was writing an email. Stop, start throughout the first day. It was really enjoyable. Lots of moments of rest. Each time I stopped, my body let go of all the “doing” including my mouth and tongue and became aware of the present moment.
I also added some thoughts/wishes (Directions in AT language) as to what I would like my tongue and mouth to be like. Here’s a few of the things I did. They are rather delicious even if you haven’t got a mouth issue. Try one or two and see what happens?
I let go of “unnecessary” tension. I noticed the release in my face, neck, shoulders, legs – the habit was right through me.
I invited my tongue to be at peace, to rest, be soft, be at ease, be fat and flat, or lengthen and widen. I said it out loud. Just one or two wishes. It seemed to have a powerful effect to say it out loud though it’s not necessary. I would suggest you pick whichever directions resonate most with you.
I invited my jaw to rest and be slack.
I invited my teeth to separate.
I invited my lips to be soft and slack, thinking of the circle of muscles round the mouth as I did that.
I experimented with opening my mouth and teeth a tiny amount and then bringing my lips together without altering my jaw. Keeping my teeth separate, tongue soft, and making no effort as I closed my lips.
I have a shadow of the habit now, maybe starting to do it once a day. However, the more I apply AT to it, and particularly consciously stopping and doing nothing, the less it has happened.
In this last week, serendipitously, on Facebook, someone asked about the tongue in relation to the Alexander Technique and I got to read a few ideas about what other people do in relation to the tongue. One post mentioned the Peanuts cartoon and Linus noticing his tongue. How when you think about it, suddenly you know it’s there and don’t quite know what to do with it! Hopefully you aren’t in this position now.
If you want to see the cartoon, follow the link to my Pinterest page on Alexander technique related images. You will find the cartoon in question there.
I would love to know what you notice by doing this.
Alexander Technique Teacher