Temporalis:  Pain & Trigger Points

The temporalis is a muscle in the area of the temples that can trigger headaches, toothaches and jaw pain if it is tense or carries trigger points.

However, you can free yourself of these pains with a self-massage.

On this page, I’ll show you how it works!

I’ll also explain …

  • where exactly the muscle can cause ailments,
  • where it is located,
  • which functions it performs,
  • and how you can feel it.

1. Pain Patterns, Symptoms & Differential Diagnoses

1.1 Pain patterns

Tensions in the temporalis often cause tenderness on the side of the head.

Trigger points can also trigger headaches, jaw pain and toothache.

The pain patterns for individual trigger points are shown below. Please note that these also may occur together, and the pain might “mix”.

1.1.1 Pain patterns trp X1

Trigger points in this area mainly lead to headaches at the back of the head.

1.1.2 Pain patterns trp X2

The pain occurs mainly on the head and diffuses obliquely backwards.

In addition, these trigger points can cause jaw pain and toothache of the posterior teeth (not shown).

1.1.3 Pain patterns trp X3

The pain can extend vertically upwards to the head, across the cheek and to the 2nd & 3rd teeth of the same side (not shown).

1.1.4 Pain patterns trp X4

The pain occurs mainly above the eyebrow, behind the eye and at the temple.

It can also extend across the cheek to the middle incisors (not shown).

1.2 Further symptoms & ailments

In addition to the pain described above, the upper row of teeth may become hypersensitive.

This manifests in an increased sensitivity to knocking, cold, heat or temperature changes in general.

Furthermore, trigger points in the temporalis can limit complete jaw opening. In most cases, affected people are not even aware of this, as this restriction only occurs when they try to open the jaw as much as possible.

2. Attachment Points

The temporalis is a “large” flat muscle. Simply speaking, it runs from the side of the head “fan-shaped” down to the lower jaw.


  • Fossa temporalis & temporal fascia


  • Processus coronoideus of the mandible/lower jaw


  • The muscle is innervated by the nervus mandibularis.

3. Function

  • Closure of the temporomandibular joint
  • Side shift of the jaw to the same side

With these two functions, the temporalis is a very important muscle for chewing or mastication.

4. Temporalis: Trigger Point Activation

Trigger points in the temporalis often get activated by

  • External force impacts
  • Immobilizations
  • Unfavorable postures
  • Conscious and unconscious active overloads

4.1 External force impact

Strong punches against a muscle can lead to the activation of trigger points, also in the temporalis.


  • Fall on one’s head
  • Car accident
  • Tennis ball against the head
  • Punch (boxing)

4.2 Immobilizations

Keeping the muscle in the same position for too long can cause problems.

If you keep the mouth open for a long time, for example at the dentist, it is possible to overload the muscle.

Especially if you’re quite anxious and can’t relax the muscle. It then constantly works against the opening of the jaw.

4.3 Unfavorable postures

Any posture in which you push your head forward changes the position of your jaw, affecting the muscle tension.

With the head being pushed forward the muscle shows increased activity, which can overload it in the long term.


  • Pushing your head forward to read/see a bit better.
  • Anxiety and its accompanying postures.

4.4 Conscious & unconscious active overload

Constant chewing of bubble gum can overload the muscle and can activate trigger points. I assign this to the category of conscious overload as you are aware of what you are doing and that you are chewing a bubble gum.

Teeth grinding also represents an active overload, it is often unconscious. Most people who grind their teeth aren’t even aware of it. Still, it can overload the muscle.

5. Palpation

The best way to feel the muscle is under contraction, i.e. when you use it.

Below you will find a description for the palpation of this muscle.

  • Place your fingertips on the side of your head – in the area just above your jaw.
  • Now move your jaw to the side a few times.
  • Bite your teeth firmly together a few times.
  • Try to feel the muscle during these movements.
  • Try to feel all its areas and where you can find tensions.

6. Self-massage of the Temporalis

You can massage the muscle with your fingers or a massage ball. Both variants are effective.

On this page, I show you the massage with the fingers, and as massage technique we use the precise massage strokes.

Tip: Examine the entire muscle for trigger points, especially in its central areas.

This is because the trigger points near the base of the muscle (Trp X 2 & 3 above the jaw joint) are often caused by the muscle pull exerted by higher located trigger points (Trp X 1 & 4 ).

6.1 Self-massage with the fingers and precise massage strokes

  • Form your hand like a shovel and press your fingertips into the muscle.
  • Search for painful tensions.
  • As soon as you find one, stroke over it a few times – from just before the painful point to just after it.
  • Pull the skin over the muscle, but do not slide over the skin.


  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • 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