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 (


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



















The masseter muscle is


(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.

  • 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”).


    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


    can be a perfectly good temporary crutch, and


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

    painless, gentle

    jaw movements: sets of


    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 “


    ,” 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




    . 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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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:



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


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


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


infraspinatus, teres minor