Have You Met Your Parotid Glands?

Back when I was young and hanging out in the back yard at home, there came a day when I had a lot of pain in my neck and jaw and I couldn't figure out what was wrong until the dreaded word was uttered ... mumps!  Back then if you had something contagious like mumps, measles or chickenpox, everyone in the neighborhood would bring their kids over to play so they would get it too and get it over with.  That was my first encounter with my parotid glands. Your parotid glands sit just behind your lower jawline and under the ears.  They are technically salivary glands, but they secrete more than just lubricating saliva.  They secrete the first step in digesting starchy carbohydrates and they also secrete lysosomes which are part of our immunity.  For this reason they also are strongly tied to the lymph system with their own series of nodes that filter the lymphatic fluid from the parotid glands.

Now I can't count the throngs of people that come in with TMJ, headaches, chronic sinus issues and even thyroid problems, and in every case the only area that is tender to the touch is .... drum roll ... you guessed it, the parotid glands.  They swell quite easily and can really put pressure on the ear canal causing tinnitis and can be affected by everything from jaw tension to frequent cell phone use.  Adam Yauch, of Beastie boys fame, died of a parotid gland tumor that he was certain evolved from his non-stop cell phone use.

So take a moment and poke around behind your jaw.  Is it sensitive?  Does one side look swollen compared to the other side?  Do you have the sensation of something in your throat when you swallow? Then you may want to get your glands checked out.  You might be amazed at how a little Parotid therapy can change everything!