The head has many functions that provide the body with functionality. The head consists of the skull, which protects the brain, the eyes to make the host see, and the jaw, which has teeth and the tongue to taste and chew food. The neck supports the head to ensure that it is stabilized and functions appropriately. Below the eyes, the jaw has muscles and joints that help stabilize the jaw from hyperextending out while providing motor function. To that point, factors that can affect the jaw could potentially affect the surrounding muscles and joints on the head and neck, causing the individual to be in pain. Today’s article looks at the masseter muscles, how myofascial pain affects the masseter muscles, and ways to relieve myofascial pain associated with the masseter muscles. We refer patients to certified providers who specialize in musculoskeletal treatments to aid individuals suffering from myofascial pain associated with masseter muscle pain along the jaw. We also guide our patients by referring them to our associated medical providers based on their examination when appropriate. We ensure to find that education is the solution to asking our providers insightful questions. Dr. Jimenez DC observes this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer
What Is The Masseter Muscle?
Have you been experiencing headaches located near your temples? Does your jaw feel sore throughout the entire day? Or have tooth pain or ear pain seems to bother you constantly? Some of these symptoms may affect your jaw joints, especially in the masseter muscles. The masseter muscles are powerful quadrangular muscles on each side of the jaw with three divisions: superficial, intermediate, and deep. The masseter muscles are also part of the mastication muscles in the jaw which include:
- Medial pterygoid
- Lateral pterygoid
- Masseter muscles
The masseter muscles also help the jaw function properly, as studies reveal that this quadrangular muscle participates in various activities like mastication (chewing), swallowing, and talking. To that point, the masseter muscles have a relationship with the trigeminal nerve, which provides sensory-motor stimulation for the jaw to move. However, when factors (traumatic or ordinary) begin to affect the masseter muscles and the surrounding muscles associated with the neck and head, pain can either slowly or quickly depending on the severity the muscles have endured.
How Myofascial Pain Affects The Masseter Muscle?
Studies reveal that chronic pain in the orofacial region of the body is common worldwide and can cause disorders affecting jaw motor control. When painful symptoms affect the jaw, many individuals begin to feel pain in the top or bottom of their jaws that cause tooth pain and the brows, causing them cluster-like headaches or experiencing tinnitus (ringing in the ears). These symptoms are associated with myofascial pain affecting the masseter muscles in the jaw. Myofascial pain or trigger points are where the muscle fibers in the body become sensitive after being injured or overused. To that point, the muscle fibers developed tiny knots along the taut muscle bands and caused pain throughout the entire muscle. Myofascial pain can be tricky to diagnose due to mimicking other pain symptoms. For trigger pain to affect the masseter muscles, studies reveal that temporomandibular disorders that involve the oral-facial region may be multifactorial while affecting the masticatory muscles and the temporomandibular joints. To that point, myofascial masseter pain could potentially involve ailments like migraines, toothaches, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction, and ear pain.
According to Dr. Janet G. Travell, M.D., complex symptoms and overlapping patterns of facial pain might be referred from multiple trigger points in the head and neck muscles, which can be more easily traced back to the individual’s muscles. By finding the root cause of these symptoms, many doctors can develop a clinical process to assess their patients dealing with myofascial trigger pain and develop a plan that caters to their wants and needs.
Stretching The Masseter Muscles-Video
Do headaches seem to be affecting your daily routine? Have you felt that your jaw feels stiff and has a dull ache when you move your mouth open? Or do you feel pain along the sides of your teeth? Many of these symptoms are referred pain associated with myofascial masseter pain. The video above demonstrates stretching the masseter muscles to reduce trigger pain along the muscle structure. Myofascial pain related to the masseter muscles can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose their patients due to the pain traveling to different areas in the body, known as somato-visceral pain. Somato-visceral pain is pain affecting the muscle connected to an affected organ. An example would be jaw pain associated with a toothache while potentially involving the masseter muscles. Thankfully, treatments are available to relieve myofascial pain along the masseter muscle.
Ways To Relieve Myofascial Pain In The Masseter Muscles
Myofascial pain affecting the masseter muscle could cause pain in the surrounding muscles and organs in the oral-facial region. The symptoms caused by myofascial pain associated with masseter muscles may be complex and challenging to diagnose due to the pain affecting different body regions. Fortunately, many doctors refer musculoskeletal specialists like chiropractors, massage therapists, and physiotherapists to relieve myofascial muscle pain associated with the masseter muscles by providing pain relief techniques. Some of the various methods that help ease trigger pain from the masseter muscles include:
- Stretch & Spray: Stretching the jaw slowly to the full extent and spraying coolant along the masseter muscle to relieve pain
- Jaw Exercising: Yawning, extending, and retracting the masseter muscle to stretch and strengthen the jaw.
- A warm compress on the cheek: Helps relax the aggravating muscle and releases any tension causing myofascial pain.
Studies reveal that soft tissue mobilization is one of the various techniques that can help relieve trigger pain in masseter muscles. What soft tissue mobilization does is that it allows musculoskeletal specialists to use a pincer method to lengthen the masseter muscle to an extent and release trigger points in slow downward traction to alleviate the pain from the masseter muscles. Utilizing these various treatments can help many people with myofascial pain associated with masseter muscles feel relief from jaw pain and its related symptoms.
The masseter is a quadrangular muscle that surrounds each side of the jaw and helps stabilize the jaw’s motor function. When injuries or traumatic factors begin to affect the jaw, over time can lead to the development to trigger point pain associated with masseter muscles. When trigger point pain affects the masseter muscles in the oral-facial region, it can cause somato-visceral pain alongside the jaw affecting the teeth, causing tinnitus symptoms and headaches. Fortunately, various treatments are available to help manage trigger pain and relieve the associated symptoms that affect the masseter muscles. This allows many individuals to get back their health by being pain-free.
Al Sayegh, Samaa, et al. “Effects of Chronic and Experimental Acute Masseter Pain on Precision Biting Behavior in Humans.” Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers Media S.A., 29 Oct. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6828929/.
Corcoran, Nicholas M, and Evan M Goldman. “Anatomy, Head and Neck, Masseter Muscle.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 11 June 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539869/.
Kuć, Joanna, et al. “Evaluation of Soft Tissue Mobilization in Patients with Temporomandibular Disorder-Myofascial Pain with Referral.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 21 Dec. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7767373/.
Maini, Kushagra, and Anterpreet Dua. “Temporomandibular Syndrome.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 28 Apr. 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551612/.
Widmer, C G, et al. “Developmental and Functional Considerations of Masseter Muscle Partitioning.” Archives of Oral Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1861846/.
The information herein on "Myofascial Pain Affecting The Jaw Muscles" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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