Did you know that the STRONGEST muscle in the body relative to it’s size is the MASSETER! TMJD (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction) can be caused by tight muslces of the jaw. Today I will go over two very accessible muscles that can be the main issue to this discomfort, they are the masseters and temporalis. The cause of these tight muscles of mastication can be chewing gum (any excessive motion of opening and closing the jaw), stress (many people clench their jaw when they are under tension), grinding your teeth at night (it can work both ways, either the tight muscles cause the grinding or the grinding can cause the tight muscles).
These tight muscles can cause grinding of the teeth at night, clenching of the jaw, headaches and sometimes tooth aches. I find the most effective way of treatment is massage and awareness throughout the day. Notice if when you are under tension are you clenching your jaw? If you have a tight jaw and chew gum regularly maybe try using mints as a replacement.
Self massage of the masseter muscle: You can massage this muscle from the outside of the face, but internally it is much easier and more effective. It is also helpful to use hydrotherapy, a warm/hot washcloth being held over the jaw and jaw muscles for 1 minute prior can be very helpful. With washed hands place your index finger on the inside of your cheek and the thumb on the outside. Now you will start with a soft squeeze of the tissue. It is best to start back near the temporomandibular joint so feel for the boney landmarks. Then moving forward a bit you will feel your fingers roll off the masseter as it is a very thick muscle. This is the area you will work on, massage the muscle by squeezing it between your two fingers. When you find a very sensitive spot hold your fingers there until the pain starts to diminish.
Self massage of the Temporalis muscle: Place two fingers on either side of your head about two inches behind the eye sockets. Apply a small amount of pressure and slowly open and close the jaw. You will feel this muscle contract. You can massage the whole temporal muscle making small circular movements, just take a look at the first picture to see how much of the cranium it covers.
For a more effective release in a full massage treatment I can do an intra-oral massage (using gloves). In this massage there is an in depth release of the muscles of mastication that can only be accessed on the inside of the mouth.