“Nutritious” Orofacial Movement

In the fall of 2017, I incurred a soft tissue foot injury that did not resolve for over a year. I was very frustrated by my lack of progress despite obsessive commitment to my physical therapy regiment. During that time, I was introduced to the work of Katy Bowman, author of “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement.”

Katy is a biomechanist, or person who studies the mechanics of human movement, in Washington state. Katy coined the term “nutritious movement” and explains that human bodies require a specific “movement diet” in order to operate without dysfunctional movement patterns or pain. She equates movements like squatting and correctly stacking the ribs to essential vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin B12. If a body becomes deficient in these vital movement patterns, it becomes dysfunctional and prone to injuries and pain.

This new way of understanding movement significantly quickened my recovery as I began to focus on functional movement patterns versus isolated exercises that did not translate to life outside the gym. I saw many parallels between the concept of a “nutritious movement diet” and the movement patterns Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) seeks to reprogram in patients.

Like a “nutritious movement diet,” OMT focuses on reestablishing functional movement patterns of the tongue, oral musculature and face. While therapy begins with isolated exercises to target under-utilized muscles, patients quickly graduate to functional feeding and swallowing activities that easily carry over into daily life.

Katy also references the term “mechanotransduction” and describes it as “the process by which cells sense and then translate mechanical signals (compression, tension, fluid shear) created by their physical environment into biomechanical signals, allowing cells to adjust their structure and function accordingly.” This scientific concept is, in a nutshell, “moving your DNA.” Our body’s movement environment has a major impact on our physical structures and functions, despite the genes we are born with. This is one of the reasons a child with a strong anterior tongue thrust will often exhibit an anterior open-bite, regardless of a family history of perfect occlusion (or perfect “dental bite” where all the teeth line up), because the persistent forces of the tongue have stronger influence then a parent’s “genes” so to speak. This is also why a thumb-sucker will have a more high and narrow palate and overbite, and why a mouth breather will have a longer and more narrow face. Environment significantly influences genetic expression.

Some patients ask “well now that I know where my tongue should go do I really need therapy?” Like learning how to properly squat multiple times a day after a lifetime of very poor form, learning and implementing correct oral rest tongue posture and swallowing takes time. It requires diligence and intention, as it seeks to re-pattern movement sequences as subconscious as breathing. That is why a significant duration, frequency and intensity of therapy is important. The goal of OMT is to teach functional oral, facial and tongue movement patterns that support healthy facial and airway development. This creates an “optimal movement environment” for patients to grow and flourish.

Katy is full of fantastic tools and resources. She can be found at http://www.nutritiousmovment.com and her many books are available on Amazon.