The muscles of the jaw are some of the most powerful muscles of the body. TMJ pain affects millions of people. Most people with TMJ suffer tremendously. A lot of self-manipulation can be done to alleviate pain as well as to assist in the correction of structure and alignment of the mandible and adjacent bones of the skull.
Releasing these muscles through manual manipulation can be very painful when misalignment and tension are present, yet also can help to re-set the entire structure of the jaw and reduce the pain and inflammatory conditions associated with TMJ.
Applying some basic therapeutic techniques can work tremendously in your favor, as can adjacent practices of things like yoga, meditation, chiropractic and corrective exercise.
The Pterygoid Muscle
The pterygoid is a powerful muscle of mastication. It is involved in closing the jaw as well as protrusion of the jaw. Therefore manual release of the pterygoid muscle can benefit those both with generalized TMJ pain and discomfort as well as people with overbite.
Accessing the pterygoid muscle involves palpating the muscle with a finger in the back of the mouth. Accessible is the medial pterygoid muscle, which can be felt all the way in the back of the mouth behind the bottom wisdom teeth. The muscle runs along a vertical axis. Can you feel it? Very powerful. Press into it with some force. You can feel its tension. Press into the muscle for 5-10 seconds. Repetitive application of this technique can have powerful effects upon TMJ. Breathe deeply and relax as much as possible while applying the technique.
Temporalis Muscle & Adjacent Connective Tissue
Releasing the temporal fascia on the side of the skull also can release tension in the jaw. Applying broad sweeping downward strokes to this muscle and its overlaying connective tissue can result in decreased TMJ tension and pain and can help to re-set the mandibular structure.
The temporalis muscle on the side of the skull is very broad and encompassing. It is sort of shaped like a fan blade, ovular in shape. The temporalis is also involved in mastication and in clenching of the jaw.
To access the temporalis place the palm of your hand on the side of your skull with fingers facing up. Open and close your mouth. Do you feel the temporalis contracting upon closing?
The most sensitive and functional component of the temporalis is directly in front of the ears. Press into that area. Do you feel it? Now to palpate the muscle take your thumbs at the lower crest of the parietal bones of the skull at the top of where the frontal bone begins. Here is the “top” of the muscle. With powerful downward sweeping strokes, glide down on the belly of the muscle, all the way down to the muscle’s insertion on the zygomatic bone.
Start from the front-most portion of the muscle and stroke downward and then proceed to the top middle down, to the posterior and superior (top) down. Apply as much pressure as necessary to access and release the muscle.
Other Tips To Improve TMJ
Meditation and proper alignment of the skull and spinal column can be powerful. Sitting upright comfortably in mediation with very good cranial and postural alignment can release deep and huge amounts of tension in the jaw you never knew existed.
Realize that the spinal column is a shock absorber. Impact will translate into the cranium when posture is poor.
Another phenomena that I have no definitive explanation for is that yoga hip opening postures such as “double pigeon” can have important releasing effects upon mandibular tension. One theory is that myofascial continuity along the lateral aspect of the body is connected via the communicative connective tissues. The lateral hip and and lateral jaw are part of the lateral track of myofascial meridian, as specifically outlined by Thomas Myers in his brilliant book ‘Anatomy Trains’.
Releasing one location of myofascial track has a direct influence upon other junctions along the same track. 11 years of yoga practice and study of basic anatomy has shown me the direct correlation to what Myers refers to.