How?s your jaw feeling? Most people carry some tension there. Most people often don?t think of this area as being in need of massage either!

Your masseter muscle is your main chewing muscle, covering the sides of your jaw just behind the cheeks. This muscle is the one that clenches your jaw and grinds your teeth (bruxism), working with other muscles to give you those headaches and TMJ Syndrome.

The masseter muscle is the strongest muscle in the human body. Along with the temporalis muscle and a few other smaller ones, most people can generate about 70kg of force between their teeth!

Some of the problems caused by tension in this area are:

TENSION HEADACHES

Are mostly caused by the temporalis muscle which most people with a headache will rub (around the temples). Most people don?t think to massage the masseter, even though it?s more powerful. They both need attention. You can rub above and below the cheekbones.

EARACHES AND TOOTHACHES

Are a much less obvious connection. A trigger point, or a ?knot?, can radiate pain straight to a tooth or to an ear.

TINNITUS AND DIZZINESS

Can both be serious problems. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and dizziness usually have many contributing factors and causes but masseter trigger points are potentially involved.

BRUXISM

Grinding teeth can cause cracking molars but before that, can damage the enamel.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT SYNDROME

Causes pain and often limited movement in the jaw. It can be a minor problem but often interferes with eating and sleeping. It can be involved in ear aches and headaches. TMJ Syndrome probably wont be fixed by just massage but massage can help relieve it.

HOW DO YOU MASSAGE THE MASSETER MUSCLE YOURSELF?

It?s actually really easy to massage your own masseter muscle. It runs from the underside of the cheekbone, down to the side of the jaw bone. If you run your fingers from your ear, forward, under your cheekbone, you will feel a little hollow, before running along your top teeth. Your thumb or fingertip will fit into the hollow as if it were made to be there. If you press firmly inwards and slightly upwards, you?ll feel a little ache. You can rub in small circles or just press into the hollow for a while. Keep the pressure on for a little while and you?ll have a lovely release of the muscle. You can rub the whole muscle although it can feel quite tender.

REMEMBER, YOUR JAW CONNECTS TO YOUR NECK AND SHOULDERS TOO

If you have TMJ Syndrome, you most likely have tightness or discomfort in your neck and shoulders as well. There are some muscles under the back of your skull that often need rubbing and will feel wonderful when they are released.

Don?t forget, your massage therapist should be able to help in the early stages. Just book in for an appointment and?work out a plan to manage it.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR JAW PAIN HAS BECOME CHRONIC

Most chronic pain makes us more sensitive to more pain (sensitisation). This happens when the nerves carrying the pain signals get mixed up and send pain messages even when the tissues are not in pain. It takes time to recover from chronic pain and you will need to address it in multiple ways.

You will need to minimise stress on the jaw as much as possible, gradually reintroducing normal use over time. You?ll need to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible. Practise having a neutral jaw position and try not to put any pressure to your jaw.

Spend some time every day gently exercising your jaw ? slight opening and closing and side-to-side movements. Make sure these movements are painless.

If you do have chronic TMJ Syndrome, you should see an osteopath, chiropractor or craniosacral therapist, or even your dentist is a good place to start!.