Massage therapy for TMJ involves primarily the masseter muscle, the primary muscle used in chewing. It is said that the masseter muscle is pound for pound the strongest muscle in the human body and able to exert over 200 pounds of pressure. Not only is the masseter muscle worked hard when we eat or chew gum, it is also often the victim of teeth grinding. I have heard many people complain that they experience headaches due to the fact that they grind their teeth excessively. Temporomadibular Joint Syndrome refers to any number of conditions that affect the temporomadibular joint, the muscles of the jaw, and the associated nerves. The massage therapist focuses much of his/her attention on the masseter and temporalis muscles, as well as the muscles of the neck. The goal is to relax these often overworked muscles in order to provide some degree of pain relief.
It is estimated that more than ten million Americans suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ). The temporomandibular Joint connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. The most common symptoms of TMJ are pain in the jaw or ear, inability to comfortably open the mouth, a “clicking” or “popping sound” when opening and closing the mouth, a jaw that gets stuck or “locks” in position, and headaches. Massage can be very beneficial to those suffering from TMJ by relaxing the muscles that surround the joint, and even the muscles of the neck and back. Trigger Point Therapy is especially beneficial as muscle adhesions and scar tissue buildup is often thought to be the underlying cause of the jaw misalignment that causes the pain.
When most people think of massage, they don’t think of a massage therapist sticking his/her fingers (medical gloves are worn of course) inside their mouths. But if you suffer from TMJ this may be just what you need! As with any medical condition, you should always consult with your doctor before receiving massage treatments.