The Masseter is one of your muscles of mastication and can trigger pain in the jaw, ear and head.
In a lot of cases, tensions and trigger points are responsible for the pain.
On this page you will learn how you can free yourself of these pains.
Tensions and trigger points can be “eliminated” with a self-massage. You will find instructions for this below.
I will also explain the areas where the muscle can cause pain, where it is located, its function, and how you may have overloaded it.
I would like to encourage you to study this page carefully and invest some time in your body – You will not regret it.
Tensions in the masseter can lead to pressure sensitivity of the muscle, and can trigger jaw pain.
Trigger points can refer pain to adjacent regions – see chapters below.
In the next sections, I distinguish between superficial and deep lying fibers of the muscle. Don’t let this confuse you. I will explain everything in the chapter “Attachment Points”.
Trigger points in the superior/upper portion of the masseter’s superficial fibers may cause the following kinds of pain:
Trigger points in the lowest area of the superficial fibers often result in:
Besides the pain described above, trigger points in the masseter can also lead to the following ailments.
If your masseter is tense, you may no longer be able to completely open your jaw, or you experience pain during this movement.
When the temporomandibular joint is opened, the muscle gets stretched, and a tense muscle is usually “reluctantly” loosened or stretched by the nervous system.
If there are trigger points in the masseter, these can lead to unilateral (on one side) tinnitus. The responsible points are located in the upper deep fibers of the muscle.
Tinnitus from systemic causes usually occurs bilaterally (on both sides). However, consider that the masseter naturally develops trigger points on both sides and can thus lead to bilateral tinnitus.
This may then change in its intensity, so that you hear the sound one time louder on the left, one time louder on the right.
Jaw pain or pain in the jaw joint caused by trigger points in the masseter can feel like rheumatic pain in the jaw joint.
So it’s important to investigate this possibility. Of course, trigger points and rheumatic pain are not mutually exclusive.
Above all, you should know that rheumatic pain in the jaw area results in tensions of the muscles in this area and can therefore turn into a second trigger for pain.
The reason for this is that pain can lead to a higher muscle tension. If the pain persists, the increased muscle tension usually remains.
Sooner or later, this results in muscular problems – for example trigger points.
The masseter is responsible for closing your jaw firmly and/or moving it to the sides.
Many factors can lead to an activation of trigger points in the masseter. Below you will find an excerpt of potentially triggering factors.
Concerning this muscle, active overloads often occur acutely or chronically.
Active chronic overload due to constant chewing on objects:
Active acute overloads due to a firm bite:
The masseter (like the jaw muscles in general) reacts sensitively to emotions and mental tensions, especially to “negative” ones.
Stress, inner tension, restlessness, despair, fierce determination – these feelings result in a mostly unconscious tension of the masseter.
Very often the muscle remains tense for a long time, even if the triggering factor/feeling is no longer present.
This is how the muscle gets overloaded – especially if you cannot perceive these tensions (mental and muscular) well and if you don‘t provide relaxation.
Listen to your body and your feelings and “take care” of them. Otherwise your body will remind you, and usually in a very unpleasant way – through pain.
All postures where your head is “moved forward” place your jaw in a position that puts the masseter under strain.
This causes constant tension, which can overload it.
Examples of postures in which the head is (often) moved forward.
Keeping the mouth wide open for a long time can cause tensions. Especially if you do not “let go” and cannot relax.
A classic example would be a visit at the dentist.
If you are stressed or afraid, or if you experience pain or feel uncomfortable during the treatment, your masseter will contract.
That is why it gets stretched “against its will” when it comes to keeping the mouth open.
Strong force impacts on the jaw, especially from the side, can result in tensions in this muscle.
In the cases of infections or inflammations, our musculature contracts reflexively.
Chronic infections and inflammations are therefore possible reasons for overloading this muscle.
Years of teeth grinding can lead to structural changes of the teeth (height of the teeth decreases).
This results in a disharmonious jaw closure and can overload the masseter.
Thus, in this example, the muscle is overloaded in two ways. On one hand due to the constant tension during teeth grinding and, on the other hand, due to the abnormal jaw closure (after a few years).
Trigger points in muscles that can cause pain in the area of the masseter represent often a decisive factor.
These trigger points are called key trigger points, because they can cause the activation of trigger points in other muscles as a result of referred pain.
These newly activated trigger points are called satellite trigger points.
If pain occurs in a certain area of the body, the muscles located there tense reflexively. This can overload them and cause them to develop dysfunctions themselves.
In this case, the two muscles involved are:
The best way to palpate the muscle is to feel it during contraction.
Only directly at your temporomandibular joint it is possible to feel the deep fibers of the muscle, because it is the only spot where they are not covered by the superficial fibers.
In the following, I will show you a few massage techniques for this muscle.
You can massage the masseter with your fingers or with the Trigger Fairy. Both variants have their advantages.
With your fingers you can also massage the muscle in the oral cavity and identify even the slightest tensions. Of course, this can be unpleasant or stressful for your fingers, especially if you have long nails or no strong fingers.
With the Trigger Fairy you protect your fingers, but you will “only” massage the exterior fibers. You will not reach the areas in your oral cavity.
When it comes to the massage techniques, you have the choice between the ischemic compression, the precise massage strokes and the pressure-motion technique. I’ll explain these techniques in a moment.
General remarks concerning the massage:
You can massage the tensions as follows.
Assure to massage the most painful spots, but without increasing the pain.