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Temporomandibular Joints and Muscles





Treating Temporalis Trigger Points - Stuart Hinds



Trigger point therapy can often help reduce the severity and chronicity of the pain associated with TMJ syndrome 

Treating TMJD

This debilitating condition is characterised by pain, stiffness, and aching in the jaw muscles, especially in the region of the ear.

It may be primary, as the result of anomalous jaw or bite formation, such as malocclusion or a variation in jaw joint anatomy.

It can also be secondary to a variety of conditions, such as tooth clenching or grinding.

It is always worth getting a proper opinion and diagnosis from a qualified dental practitioner.

However, if you are suffering from TMJ syndrome, take comfort in knowing that trigger point therapy treatments can often help reduce the severity and chronicity of the pain.


Massage Tutorial - Treating TMJ and Bruxism


TMJ - Common Symptoms and Diagnosis

Trigger points are commonly found in the muscles that move and stabilise the TMJ. People often clench the jaw muscles in response to stress, anxiety, and/ or tension.

TMJ syndrome can be defined as “chronic pain and/or dysfunction of the TMJ and its muscles.”

The most commonly accepted theory is that there is a “temporary anterior displacement (of the joint) with or without reduction”.

This leads to repetitive micro- and macrotrauma of muscles, and chronic inflammation of the joint membranes.

Trigger points often develop in the muscles which support and operate the joint. The main symptoms are facial pain, especially around the ear, popping sounds, and headaches, but may include nausea and tinnitus.

Patients are often driven to distraction by the pain, and have been known to seek exotic and expensive remedies.

In our experience, trigger point release can be a very useful therapeutic intervention along with identifying and addressing any underlying causes.

TMJ syndrome is multifactorial, and the following list covers some of the common differential diagnostic criteria: 

  • “Under,” “over,” lateral bite, or malocclusion
  • Dislocation on yawning, popping, and/or crepitus
  • Ear pain
  • Cervical spine disorders
  • Type/shape of synovial joint; several anatomical variations occur
  • Gum chewing
  • Masticating food unilaterally
  • Chronic dental problems
  • Problems with wisdom teeth
  • Tooth grinding; bruxism
  • Clenching in response to stress/anxiety • Depression and bipolar disorder
  • Arthritis (osteo- and rheumatoid)
  • Dentures


Tempralis Trigger Points

Temporalis - Common Trigger Point Sites



TMJ - Trigger Point Therapy

The primary muscles directly associated with the TMJ are the temporalis, masseter, and pterygoideus lateralis and medialis. The secondary muscles are the mylohyoid and the anterior digastricus.

Chronic trigger points in any of these muscles may lead to an increase in muscular stiffness, fatigue, and dysfunction.

Symptoms may be unilateral and/or bilateral, and are rarely seen in the under-20 age group.

Further, satellite trigger points may often be located in the upper trapezius, upper semispinalis capitis, suboccipitalis, and SCM.

Remember, not all therapists practice trigger point therapy, and not all will be familiar with the treatment of TMJ.

The good news is that many are, and many do .... so have a chat with your therapist about trigger points, and they should be able to tell you exactly what it is that they can do for you!






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Scraping, a manual, ancient practice where pain points are worked with a gua sha (smooth-edged tool), reportedly increases blood flow by up to 400 per cent more than foam rolling and massage guns. By breaking up old, damaged blood vessels to promote new growth and healing, these tools are useful for getting into the nooks and crannies of a pain point, especially in delicate areas like along the shin muscles and under the foot.

Tim Tian has taken the scraper idea and supercharged it, creating a manual, triangular tool that blends heat and vibration therapy. “Cold blades stiffen muscles, blocking a deep release,” he says.

The heated scraper device takes just three seconds to reach 50ºC. This helps muscles soften, making it easier to massage away tension, increase blood flow and promote healing. The scraper is specially great for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the quads, and provides a relaxing switch-up from the foam roller slog.