Signs of TMJ Disorders
You can locate your TMJ by placing your fingers just in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth. This joint and surrounding muscle tissue are involved in chewing, biting, talking and yawning. Because it is one of the most used and complex joints of the body, this joint is highly susceptible to TMJ disorders. It is reported by Arthritis Today that over 11 million people suffer from jaw pain, with the majority of them being women.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain in the joint, jaw and surrounding muscle tissues
- Clicking, popping or a grating sensation called crepitus when opening and closing the mouth
- Pain that radiates from the jaw to the neck, head, shoulders and arms
- Muscle stiffness in the neck
- Ringing in the ear
- Misalignment of the upper and lower teeth
- Limited range of movement in the jaw
- Shifting of the jaw from side to side
- Difficulty chewing
Self Massage Treatment for TMJ
The muscles involved with the TMJ are the temporalis, masseter, lateral and medial pterygoid. These are the key muscles involved in movement of the jaw as well as stabilization of the jaw. All are used in chewing, biting, talking, eating and yawning, but the masseter muscle tends to experience the most stress. It is also the muscle that becomes contracted when you clench your teeth. Treating TMJ disorders with trigger point massage therapy can be easy to perform on yourself.
Trigger points, also called muscle “knots,” are specific points in a muscle that experience pain. The blood flow to these areas tends to be significantly less than in surrounding muscle tissue.
The masseter muscle connects to the cheekbone and the lower jaw. Locate a “notch” on the bottom side of your cheekbone about an inch in front of your ear. Press this area inward and slightly upward for about 10 to 20 seconds. Make sure you press just hard enough to reach the threshold of pain.
Release this trigger point and repeat for another 10 to 20 seconds.
Applying pressure to trigger points initially restricts blood flow to the area. However, blood pools just outside of the trigger point and upon release, blood will rush into the affected area.
Additional trigger points can be found throughout the face, neck, shoulders and base of the skull. Applying pressure to these painful knots is a massage treatment for TMJ that can be done daily to relieve stress and reduce pain in the jaw.
Professional Massage Treatment for TMJ
Visiting a professional massage therapist regularly can be a key component in stress management. A full body massage along with some focused TMJ massage techniques can help to ease pain and leave you feeling relaxed.
When performing massage treatment for TMJ, a therapist will focus on trigger points, stretching and massage techniques to loosen the neck, shoulders, base of the skull and face muscles.
Prilutsky, Boris, MA. “Medical Massage for Jaw and Joint Disorders,” Massage Today. December 2001, Vol. 04, Issue 12
Ingraham, Paul. “Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching and TMJ Syndrome”, https://saveyourself.ca/articles/perfect-spots/spot-07-masseter.php
Arthritis Today, https://www.arthritis.org/temporomandibular-joint-syndrome.php