Digastricus – Pain & Trigger Points

The digastricus is one of your neck muscles and can cause astounding problems if it is tense or harbors trigger points.

The spectrum ranges from earache to difficulties when swallowing.

However, you can relieve tensions and trigger points with a self-massage.

On this page, I’ll show you how.

You will also learn about …

  • the specific types of symptoms this muscle can cause.
  • its location.
  • its functions.
  • the factors that lead to its overload.
  • and much more.

1. Pain Patterns, Symptoms & Differential Diagnoses

1.1 Pain patterns

Tensions lead to sensitivity of pressure in the muscle. In this case, this means increased sensitivity along the area below your mandible.

Trigger points, on the other hand, can transmit pain to other regions.

In the anterior compartment of the muscle, they often cause toothaches of the lower middle four incisors.

Sometimes pain also arises in the area of the tongue.

In the posterior compartment of the muscle they can cause the following types of pain:

  • Pain in the lateral side of the neck
  • Pain in the back of the head, behind the ear
  • Pain behind the jaw
  • Earache

1.2 Symptoms & ailments

In addition to this pain, tensions and trigger points in the digastricus can cause the following ailments:

  • The sensation of having a lump in your throat.
  • The sensation that there’s something in the throat and is not “going down”.
  • Difficulties with swallowing.

2. Attachment Points

The digastricus consists of two muscle heads, an anterior and a posterior one. Its posterior fibers arise from the back of the head and its anterior fibers from the lower jaw.

The tendons of both muscle heads join at the hyoid bone, to which they are attached via connective tissue.

Origin of anterior fibers: Front edge of the mandible

Origin of posterior fibers: Mastoid process

Insertion: The ends of the tendons of the two muscles join at the os hyoideum.

3. Function

The muscle’s function is the opening of the jaw and thus also the opening of the mouth.

4. Digastricus – Trigger Point Activation

There are several factors that cause the development of tensions and trigger points in this muscle.

These include among others:

  • Trigger points and tensions in the antagonists.
  • Active overload.
  • External force impact (whiplash).
  • Satellite trigger points.

4.1 Trigger points and tensions in the antagonist muscles

Antagonist muscles are those that have the opposite function to the muscle in question.

Since the digastricus opens the jaw, in this case all muscles that close the jaw, are to be called antagonists.

In simple terms, it’s the entire system of muscles of mastication.

If these muscles carry trigger points, they can no longer be “easily” stretched or elongated. However, this is essential when you open the jaw.

Thus, the digastricus must always work against resistance when it opens the jaw.

This can overload it and lead to the activation of trigger points. One of the key antagonists is the masseter muscle. Make sure to have a look at it and massage it, if necessary.

4.2 Active overloads

Constant strain of the digastricus can also lead to trigger points or tensions.

Here are two common examples:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Breathing through the mouth

4.2.1 Teeth grinding

When you grind your teeth, you not only press your teeth together, but also “rub” them against each other.

With this rubbing, you often move the jaw forwards and backwards, which activates the digastricus and can overload it in the long run.

4.2.2 Permanent mouth breathing

In order to breathe through your mouth, it’s necessary to open it. Here the digastricus is strained.

Breathing through your mouth for a very long time possibly overloads the muscle.

Thus, all situations that lead to a restriction of air supply via the nose are potential factors for a trigger point activation.

Air circulation can be restricted by many things. For example, by structural disturbances in the nose, or, and this is more often the case, by its congestion.

Colds or allergies can therefore become problematic and trigger pain in the throat, jaw and ear – pain that is or can be muscular in nature.

4.2 External forces: Whiplash

Any force that slams the head forwards or backwards or quickly bends or stretches the cervical spine can overload the digastricus.

Due to this rapid flexion or extension, part of the muscle is always stretched abruptly and too much. This can lead to the activation of trigger points.

4.3 Activation of satellite trigger points by trigger points in the SCM

Trigger points in the SCM (Sternocleidomastoid muscle: muscle of your neck) can cause pain in the area of the digastricus.

This can result in the activation of trigger points. In this case, we speak of satellite trigger points.

This means, if you have pain that is caused by the digastricus, you should also examine the SCM and eliminate any tensions that are present there.

5. Palpation

You will find it difficult to feel the muscle or to distinguish it from the surrounding tissues.

But that is no problem, because you only need to know where and how to massage – and that’s exactly what I’ll show you in the next chapter.

6. Self-massage of the Digastricus

For the self-massage you need nothing but your fingers. For this muscle I have not yet found a massage device that could replace them.

As a massage technique you can choose from the following techniques:

  • Ischemic compression
  • Precise massage strokes
  • Pressure-motion technique

In the following, I’ll explain the precise massage strokes.

6.1 Self-massage with the precise massage strokes

  • Press with your thumb in the middle of the inferior side of your chin.
  • Your other fingers “rest” on the surface of your jaw.
  • Gently press the thumb upwards, in direction of the mouth.
  • Examine the entire area along your mandible and seek for painful tensions.
  • As soon as you find one, massage it with a few short massage strokes.
  • Only move the skin over the muscle, but do not slide with your finger over the skin.

Thank you very much for your visit!


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  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print