3-Minute Muscles: The Temporalis Muscle

Jul 13 · 1 min read

Have you ever instinctually rubbed your temples when you feel a headache coming on? Those soft, fleshy spots on either side of your forehead you are rubbing are the muscle bellies of your Temporalis, a fan-shaped muscle of the head that helps move your jaw.

Trigger points in the temporalis can cause pain behind the eye, along the sides of your head, and even into the teeth. For people who have been in car accidents or experienced trauma to the head, grind their teeth excessively, or chew way too much gum, tendonitis may develop in the lower part of the muscle where it attaches to the jaw.

Temporalis tendonitis can actually be as extreme as mimicking a migraine, and people with this condition have found themselves in the ER only to have testing results come back inconclusive.

When tendonitis develops in this muscle, in addition to the headache symptoms, they may also experience restricted jaw movement, swelling in the cheeks, and pain and pressure in the ear. (Ouch...who knew such a small muscle could be such an a**hole?).

Of course, if you have developed any of these symptoms, specifically the pressure in the ear, the swelling, the restriction in movement, or the migraine-like symptoms, please go see a doctor first. These more extreme symptoms could be a sign that something worse is going on. Temporalis Tendonitis is classically treated with injections to reduce swelling, which you will need to get from your doctor. You could also talk to your chiropractor or physical therapist about tendonitis for a less invasive treatment option.

If, on the other hand, you’re just experiencing a classic headache, or you chewed too much gum yesterday and are feeling stiff and achy around the jaw and temples, try this temporalis self-massage:

1. Find the temporalis. Using your pointer, middle, and ring fingertips, press into your temples, like in the picture below. You will feel a fleshy area that is quite a bit softer than directly on your forehead.

To ensure you are on the right area, clench your jaw. You will feel the muscle contract and then you'll know you have it.

2. Applying a comfortable amount of pressure to the muscle, slowly open your jaw as you glide your fingers upwards. You should feel the fibers run through your fingers like the calm, rhythmic current of a river.

Okay, maybe not that smooth for most people, especially if your temporalis is tight and angry.

Repeat a few times, or whenever that pesky headache creeps back to you.

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