Temporomandibular joint disorders (called either TMJ or TMD) affect millions of Americans. However, not all people with TMJ need professional care. Many cases of TMJ can resolve with just home care.

When considering home care for TMJ, it’s important to determine whether you need professional care. Consult with a Denver TMJ dentist before starting home care to make sure your TMJ is not so advanced that postponing care will cause damage. 

If you do think you might be a good candidate for home care, you can consider alternative TMJ treatments, such as massage and meditation. Just be aware that these treatments don’t help everyone. Monitor the progress of your condition. If TMJ pain and other symptoms get worse, last more than seven days, or improve but then recur, it’s time to talk to a Denver TMJ dentist about how to get more lasting results.

What Is the Masseter Muscle?

The masseter muscle is the fleshy muscle attached to the underside of your cheekbone and the length of your lower jaw. Made up of a web of interconnected muscle layers, it is one of the most powerful muscles in the body.   

The masseter muscle does much of the work of biting and chewing because its function is to close the jaw. It pulls the jaw up and forwards to ensure proper closure. 

A secondary function of the masseter muscles is to stabilize the temporomandibular joint. Ideally, the joint should partly stabilize itself with healthy relations among the jaw components: both bones and the articular disc. However, when the joint is unstable, whether because of joint degeneration or simply a displaced disc, the masseter muscle has to work especially hard to perform its stabilization. When this happens, the masseter muscle can contribute to TMJ symptoms. 

How Masseter Muscle Massage Works

When performed properly, masseter muscle massage can bring relief from many of the symptoms associated with TMJ syndrome. That’s because the pain in the masseter muscles can act as a trigger for other problems in the jaw system. An overworked, sore masseter muscle has difficulty fulfilling its role, and it can become more and more painful. Plus, effects from an overworked masseter muscle can spread effects through your system. 

If over-tightened or clenched, the masseter muscle can cause many complications, such as vertigo, tinnitus, headaches, earaches, and toothaches. It is the primary chewing muscle and is responsible for the ability to clench your jaw, grind your teeth, and unfortunately, also happens to serve as one of the more common trigger point locations in the human body. Thankfully, it’s a simple matter to massage and soothe your own masseter muscle.

However, if you have difficulty locating the masseter muscles, talk to a board-certified orofacial pain specialist with the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain who can help you get started with a muscle massage. 

The Technique

The sweet spot to look for when attempting to massage the masseter muscle is in the notch in your cheekbone, located approximately one inch in front of your ears. Feel around with your thumb on the underside of your cheekbone until your thumb fits nicely into it. If you apply pressure to this point, you will usually feel a peculiar ache. That is the spot you want to work on.

You may apply gentle pressure or rub gently. You can extend this massage to the lower part of the muscle, but most people find the most relief by massaging the notch area. Apply firmer pressure as your instinct dictates, either in small, kneading circles or just constant pressure. Gravity may also aid in applying pressure by simply lying on your side with your hand under you and allowing the weight of your own head to apply steady pressure to your fingertip.

After working on each area of the upper cheekbone for an average of 20 seconds, move on down the length of the muscle to the lower jaw. Pause to open and close your mouth and feel the relaxation on the side of the face you’ve been working on, and notice the difference to the untreated side. Always remember to treat both sides of the face to maintain balance.

You should experience some degree of relief from this massage. If you’re not noticing any relief, it might be time to talk to a Denver TMJ dentist about your treatment needs. 

Effective Jaw Pain Relief in Denver

Remember that masseter muscle massage as home care for TMJ syndrome may help with less serious or persistent cases and may, at best, be a temporary relief measure for chronic and persistent pain. However, it’s really only effective in some cases of TMJ, those whose symptoms are related to muscle dysfunction. It won’t help in cases that are primarily related to dysfunction or degeneration in the jaw joints. Talking to a DenverTMJ dentist before starting a masseter muscle massage can help you determine if it’s likely to be effective.

If you suffer from a more severe case of TMJ syndrome that persists or recurs, or if you have any questions about masseter muscle massage, please call (303) 691-0267 to schedule an appointment with Denver TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry at the TMJ Therapy and Sleep Center, located near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and I-25.