Jaw in neutral position.
The lateral pterygoid is a muscle of your temporomandibular joint and can cause pain in the area of the jaw and face if it carries trigger points.
Trigger points are small tensions or muscle nodules that can cause diverse pain and discomfort.
However, it’s possible to “eliminate” these tensions and trigger points with a self-massage.
On this page you will find instructions how to do this. You will also learn …
So stay a little longer here.
If the lateral pterygoid is tense, it may be sensitive to local pressure and lead to a feeling of tension in the jaw.
Trigger points in this muscle lead to the same problems, but can cause different kind of pains:
Besides pain, trigger points and tensions often lead to a disrupted function of the temporomandibular joint.
The tensions can lead to a slight protrusion of the lower jaw, which may become apparent in an unclear dental impression and a creaking noise in the jaw.
The lateral pterygoid has two muscle heads, a lower/inferior and an upper/superior one. Put simply, it runs from the temporomandibular joint to the temple.
Origin superior fibers
Insertion superior fibers
Origin inferior fibres
Insertion inferior fibres
Concerning the function of this muscle, we must distinguish between the two muscle heads.
Here we distinguish between an unilateral and bilateral contraction, depending on whether the muscle contracts on one or both sides of the jaw.
A one-sided contraction produces lateral shift of the lower jaw to the opposite/contralateral side.
This means, when it contracts on the left side of the jaw, the jaw shifts to the right.
When the muscle contracts on both sides, it opens the jaw and moves it slightly forward (protrusion).
In this muscle, mainly satellite trigger points arise, activated by trigger points harbored in other muscles, as well as due to active overload and external forces.
If you constantly strain the muscle, trigger points can develop.
All activities that require a constantly opened or pushed forward/protruded jaw or chewing for long periods, might overload the muscle.
External forces or objects pressing sideways on your jaw can cause tension and trigger points.
These can be short high strain or long low strain.
Trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid might activate trigger points in the pterygoid, because it is located in its pain zone. This is referred to as satellite trigger points.
Therefore I recommend to also take a look at this muscle if you have problems with the lateral pterygoid or if you suffer from jaw pain.
The lateral pterygoid is sometimes difficult to feel, which is due to its “hidden” position behind the zygomatic arch.
Still, you should try to feel it. You may not be able to do it right away, but that´s not a big deal.
Just take your time, and don’t mind if it doesn’t work out. Because for the massage it is not absolutely necessary that you can feel the muscle.
We subdivide the palpation into an intraoral (“through the mouth”) and an extraoral one.
The internal palpation allows to feel the anterior lower fibers of the muscle. Before you begin, wash your hands.
To feel the muscle, proceed as follows:
The extraoral palpation allows you to feel both the inferior and the superior fibers of the lateral pterygoid.
Place your index finger on the zygomatic arch. This is the horizontal bone that you can feel right next to your ear.
Place your index finger at the back of the zygomatic arch, just before your temporomandibular joint.
Use your fingers for the self-massage of this muscle. If you have long fingernails, I recommend to shorten them. Otherwise the massage will be very unpleasant and you run the risk of breaking your nails.
As a massage technique, you can use “my” common techniques, namely the ischemic compression, precise massage strokes or the pressure-motion technique.
For the massage, proceed as follows: