Massage Therapy for Bruxism, TMJ Syndrome

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Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, and TMJ Syndrome

Perfect Spot No. 7, the masseter muscle of the jaw

Drawing of a thumb pressing downwards on a trigger point or muscle knot.

Trigger points (

TrP

s), or muscle “knots,” are a common cause of stubborn & strange aches & pains, and yet they are under-diagnosed. The 14 Perfect Spots (

jump to list below

) are trigger points that are common & yet fairly easy to

self-treat with massage

— the most satisfying & useful places to apply pressure to muscle. For tough cases, see the

advanced trigger point therapy guide

.


spot

index


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2



3



4



5



6


7


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10



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12



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14




detail


The masseter muscle is

strong

(and special)

Funny animated gif of two strange animated characters rapidly opening and close their jaws.

Why is the masseter muscle a Perfect Spot for massage?

How do you massage the masseter muscle?

Don’t neglect your neck

Learning to relax your jaw

Jaw relaxation trick #1:

The Fake Drunk

Jaw relaxation trick #2:

The Long Surprise

Photograph of a young woman holding her mouth wide open, stretching her masticatory muscles and temporomandibular joint.

When massage and relaxation aren’t enough: management of nastier jaw pain

  • Eat like you have no teeth, or fragile ones. Purge hard and chewy foods from your diet. Become a huge fan of smoothies. Make your jaw’s job as easy as possible for as long as necessary. When you do chew firmer things, favour usage of the back molars: they have better leverage.

    16
  • Your teeth should never be in contact unless eating! Contact at any other time is a stressful habit to be unlearned (which may be slow and difficult). You should also avoid opening your jaw widely (which is usually much easier to avoid).
  • Consciously return your jaw to

    neutral resting position

    as often as possible: teeth slightly apart, with the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind your front teeth (the position used to say the letter “N”).

    17

    For a while, use a timer to remind yourself of this frequently throughout the day. When you start to ignore that — and you will! — get creative with other reminder methods.

  • Beware of extreme or awkward neck or jaw positions, and/or applying pressure to the jaw. Sleeping on your stomach is the classic example. Use a firm pillow between your knees to help prevent yourself from rolling onto your front. Leaning your jaw on your hand is another common one.
  • Soothe the jaw as often and as well as you can, with either ice or heat: whatever feels most pleasant to you at any given time. Conservative use of painkillers

    18

    can be a perfectly good temporary crutch, and

    Voltaren®

    gel can be especially useful in this location.
  • Spend some time each day practicing

    painless, gentle

    jaw movements: sets of

    slight

    opening and closing and side-to-side movements, a few times a day. Make these movements as easy and subtle as required to ensure that they are painless. The idea is teach your brain that movement is safe and dandy. These are “

    mobilizations

    ,” but unusually tiny ones. With the jaw it is necessary to be particularly delicate — so much so that you might feel like you’re almost doing nothing at all. That’s okay, as long as there is movement and it doesn’t hurt.

  • All of the above might still fail if you have severe chronic

    anxiety

    or

    insomnia

    . Addressing big life problems like a job you hate, or a bad marriage, can be critical in the long run: see

    Pain Relief from Personal Growth

    .

About Paul Ingraham

Headshot of Paul Ingraham, short hair, neat beard, suit jacket.

Notes

Appendix A: Is trigger point therapy too good to be true?

Picture of the cover of my ebook, Save Yourself from Trigger Points and Myofascial Pain Syndrome.

Appendix B: Quick Reference Guide to the Perfect Spots


Perfect Spot No. 1 — Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches

for pain:

almost anywhere in the head, face and neck, but especially the side of the head, behind the ear, the temples and forehead

related to:

headache, neck pain, migraine

muscle(s):

suboccipital muscles (recti capitis posteriores major and minor, obliqui inferior and superior)


Perfect Spot No. 2 — Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain

for pain:

anywhere in the low back, tailbone, lower buttock, abdomen, groin, side of the hip

related to:

low back pain, herniated disc

muscle(s):

quadratus lumborum, erector spinae


Perfect Spot No. 3 — Massage Therapy for Shin Splints

for pain:

in the shin, top of the foot, and the big toe

related to:

shin splints, drop foot, anterior compartment syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome

muscle(s):

tibialis anterior


Perfect Spot No. 4 — Massage Therapy for Neck Pain, Chest Pain, Arm Pain, and Upper Back Pain

for pain:

in the upper back (especially inner edge of the shoulder blade), neck, side of the face, upper chest, shoulder, arm, hand

related to:

thoracic outlet syndrome, lump in the throat, hoarseness, TMJ syndrome

muscle(s):

the scalenes (anterior, middle, posterior)


Perfect Spot No. 5 — Massage Therapy for Tennis Elbow and Wrist Pain

for pain:

in the elbow, arm, wrist, and hand

related to:

carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), thoracic outlet syndrome, and several more

muscle(s):

extensor muscles of the forearm, mobile wad (brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis), extensor digitorum, extensor carpi ulnaris


Perfect Spot No. 6 — Massage Therapy for Back Pain, Hip Pain, and Sciatica

for pain:

in the low back, hip, buttocks (especially immediately under the buttocks), side of the thigh, hamstrings

related to:

sciatica, trochanteric bursitis, low back pain

muscle(s):

gluteus medius and minimus


Perfect Spot No. 7 — Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, and TMJ Syndrome

for pain:

in the side of the face, jaw, teeth (rarely)

related to:

bruxism, headache, jaw clenching, TMJ syndrome, toothache, tinnitus

muscle(s):

masseter


Perfect Spot No. 8 — Massage Therapy for Your Quads

for pain:

in the lower half of the thigh, knee

related to:

iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome

muscle(s):

quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, rectus femoris)


Perfect Spot No. 9 — Massage Therapy for Your Pectorals

for pain:

anywhere in the chest, upper arm

related to:

“heart attack,” respiratory dysfunction

muscle(s):

pectoralis major


Perfect Spot No. 10 — Massage Therapy for Tired Feet (and Plantar Fasciitis!)

for pain:

in the bottom of the foot

related to:

plantar fasciitis

muscle(s):

arch muscles


Perfect Spot No. 11 — Massage Therapy for Upper Back Pain

for pain:

anywhere in the upper back, mainly between the shoulder blades

related to:

scoliosis

muscle(s):

erector spinae muscle group


Perfect Spot No. 12 — Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain (So Low That It’s Not In the Back)

for pain:

in the lower back, buttocks, hip, hamstrings

related to:

low back pain, sciatica, sacroiliac joint dysfunction

muscle(s):

gluteus maximus


Perfect Spot No. 13 — Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain (Again)

for pain:

in the low back, buttocks, hamstrings

related to:

low back pain, sciatica, sacroiliac joint dysfunction

muscle(s):

erector spinae muscle group at L5


Perfect Spot No. 14 — Massage Therapy for Shoulder Pain

for pain:

any part of the shoulder, and upper arm

related to:

frozen shoulder, supraspinatus tendinitis

muscle(s):

infraspinatus, teres minor