The Masseter – Jaws, Too!

A goodly part of our brain is still “reptilian”.  We react, automatically, to excess stress with tension, readying to run or fight.  One place where many of us still experience a bit of the reptile in our own bodies, is in the jaws.

When you are angry and feel like biting someone’s head off, so to speak, you may notice your jaws feeling tense.  This is due to the fact that, though you may wish to bite someone’s head off, you may not do so without being imprisoned or committed!

Nevertheless the relevant bones, muscles, and feelings are there and they do make themselves known.

One of the most popular, prevalent, and profitable disorders today is known as TMJ or temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction.  This is generally another fancy name for tights jaws due to the chronically frustrated and unexpressed desire to bit someone’s head off!  (I’m exaggerating as usual!)

Very often the solution to this problem (when it’s more stress-based) is to express one’s anger in some more acceptable way!  However, since anger is neither an attractive nor very sociable emotion, people often choose to clamp down around it.

One of the major muscles used to do this is the masseter.  Generally the masseter is best worked unilaterally with fingertips doing slow, moderately deep friction on tense areas in this muscle, while stabilizing the opposite side of the jaw with the palm of your other hand. It may help if the client lets the lips part, occasionally moving the mandible slowing while you’re working. This is a good place not to work overly deep. Problems here may be due to serious misalignment of the jaw, teeth, or cranium. Difficult cases often require a team approach, e.g. physical therapist, orthodontist, massage therapist, sometime psychotherapist.

In any case, respect Mr. Masseter!


Join Physical Therapist and renowned TMJ specialist, Mark Strickland, PT, OCS, CMDT at the TMJ Dysfunction workshop at Lauterstein-Conway Massage School on Sunday, September 23, 2012 from 10am – 5pm.