tmjMedical Massage and TMJ Dysfunction

Medical Massage can be highly effective in the treatment of TMJ, especially when done in cooperation with the patient’s dentist.  

We target not only the muscles of mastication, but perform specific testing to rule out or confirm any nerve irritation that may be increasing the symptoms or even a direct cause of the pain.  

All patients are recommended to first see their dentist in order to identify any bite problems or other issues that may be creating an imbalance at the temporomandibular joint.  

How Massage Can Help TMJ Dysfunction

When the muscles of mastication become tight, they puts more pressure on the temporomandibular joint and change the position of the bite.  When working the jaw, we address the following muscles:jaw 2

  • Temporalis
  • Masseter
  • Lateral Pterygoid
  • Medial Pterygoid

These muscles are relaxed, treated for any active or latent trigger points, and gently stretched.  Though the medial pterygoid muscle is not able to be directly palpated, it can be lengthened using post-isometric stretching.

Other Causes of Jaw Pain 

There are times when jaw pain is not related to the temporomandibular joint.  There are also cases where TMJ Dysfunction is present, but it is not the primary source of jaw pain.  Jaw pain may also be caused by:

  • Irritation of the lesser occipital nerve by tight posterior cervical muscles
    • The lesser occipital nerve innervates the temporal area of the head and the outer ear.  When this nerve is slightly irritated by tight cervical muscles or connective tissue, it can produce the same symptoms as TMJ dysfunction.  One main difference is that with Lesser Occipital Nerve Neuralgia, the 3 Knuckles Test will be negative.
    • We use a special compression test to rule out or confirm the presence of irritation of the lesser occipital nerve.  If the test is positive, the treatment for the jaw pain begins with working the posterior cervical muscle to relieve pressure from the nerve.
  • Active trigger points in skeletal muscles
    • Several muscles can harbor active trigger points that refer to the jaw.  When these trigger points are found, they are treated and the soft tissue is lengthened.  Their elimination brings immediate relief.
    • Below are diagrams of several muscles that can cause jaw pain.

masseter tps newscm tpstrap jaw pain