If you suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ syndrome or TMD), massage therapy and jaw exercises may help you find some welcome relief. This medical condition can leave you feeling ongoing pain and stiffness in the jaw, face, and neck. The discomfort stems from issues with the temporomandibular joint (your jaw hinge) connecting your jaw to the side of your skull (with one joint on each side). Over time, chronic clenching and grinding (whether from stress or unconscious habit) can invite pain and dysfunction in the muscles that masticate your food as well as the TMJ itself.
Common Symptoms of TMJ
- Jaw pain or tenderness (typically from biting and chewing)
- Headache or pain in your face
- Earache or a ringing sound in one or both ears
- Problems opening or closing your mouth (lockjaw)
- TMJ osteoarthritis
- TMJ disk dislocation (hearing your jaw click when moving)
So what causes TMJ? Sometimes it is from arthritis or having a traumatic jaw injury; other times, it is behavioral, from chronically clenching your jaw and teeth, causing tightness and an imbalance in your TMJ muscles. Getting a good jaw massage along with jaw exercises may give you the relief you need.
Your muscles may be hyper tensing to form knots, become inflamed, and experience muscle spasms because the masseter muscle (used for clenching and chewing) becomes sore and tight. In this case, a TMJ trigger point massage may help! This manual therapy helps return your normal muscle tone between your TMJ muscles, which involves gently touching the muscle, pressing a thumb or finger into the tissue, and then creating intense pressure by kneading those areas to relax them.
Masseter Muscle Massage
So this muscle is the fleshy muscle attached below your cheekbone and runs along the length of your lower jaw. It consists of a web of interconnected muscle layers and is actually one of the most powerful muscles in your whole body! By applying the proper massage, this muscle can relax enough to give you the relief you need from TMJ symptoms.
If this muscle is over-tightened or chronically clenched, the masseter can leave you experiencing vertigo, tinnitus, headaches, earaches, and toothaches. This muscle is one of the main chewing muscles that allow you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth. It is also one of the most common trigger point areas in your body. The good news is you can gently massage, rub and soothe your masseter muscle from the comfort of your own home!
TMJ Exercises You Can Do at Home
These exercises help to keep your muscles smooth by stretching, strengthening and relaxing your jaw muscles.
Kneading: You want to apply constant, circular massage on the joints and muscles causing your TMJ pain. First, find the masseter muscles in your bottom jaw (right behind your molars and under the cheekbone). Massage gently in a circular motion until it feels better. It helps flush out waste buildup while boosting blood flow to the muscle.
Friction Massage: Find your muscle in the mandible (along your jawline under the masseter). Place gentle, consistent pressure on the mandible muscle using your index finger until it starts to feel better.
Stretching Massage: This works well on the muscles causing TMJ pain. Apply two thumbs pushing on the muscles above your mandible. Press on them, pulling your thumbs down along your jaw so it pulls it away from your upper jaw. This gentle stretch should feel good.
Jaw Relaxation Exercise: Place your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and open and close your mouth gently.
Give your TMJ a rest from chewing gum and hard foods by eating soups and smoothies to lower inflammation. When a muscle around a joint has become out of proper balance with the surrounding muscles, you risk incurring long-term wear and damage to this joint and the various muscles and soft tissues in the surrounding area. If nothing seems to help your TMJ pain, we encourage you to reach out to our team for an evaluation. Together, we can find the solution to your discomfort!