• Courtney Moore

Four Key Muscles For Treating TMJ Pain (At Home!)

Life is challenging right now. We have tax stress on top of pandemic stress on top of general life stress.

Stress causes pain. You might notice tense shoulders, a sore low back, or headaches, all related to higher levels of stress.

Do you experience any of these symptoms?

  • Pain when chewing

  • Headaches

  • Sore jaw, especially first thing in the morning

  • Ear ringing

  • Sinus or facial pain

  • Lockjaw

  • Grinding the teeth at night

  • Tooth damage

If so, you might be struggling with TMJ dysfunction. Stress and posture are primary roots for this pain pattern, and most of us are experiencing higher stress and less than ideal work conditions leading to suboptimal posture and sleep. All of this contributes to jaw tension.

So what's the solution?

Reduce your stress, modify your posture, and relax your muscles.

There are four primary muscles I look at when addressing TMJ symptoms:


This is the strongest muscle in the body per square inch of muscle fibers! That means you can really clamp down with your jaw, and you might be doing this without realizing or wanting to use that force.


This fan-shaped muscle runs from your temples to the area above your ears, and is responsible for moving the jaw side to side. Many TMJ-related headaches are due to a tense temporalis.


These two deep cheek muscles are often incredibly tight on individuals who clench their jaw or grind their teeth. They are so deep you need to access them through the mouth or with a needle.


This cluster of muscles under (sub) the occiput (that big bony bump at the back of your skull) is responsible for so many of the headaches I treat! If posture is a significant factor in your TMJ pattern, the suboccipitals are probably working too hard and causing pain.

Addressing the tension in these four muscle groups can significantly decrease your TMJ symptoms. You can do this with acupuncture; acupressure focusing on the gallbladder, stomach, and small intestine meridians; massage; and a special massage technique called trigger point release.

Dealing with the root of the stress is also important, and you may turn to psychotherapy, meditation, or coaching to help you manage and decrease your current stress load.

In my upcoming webinar with Candace Combs of In-Symmetry Spa I'll be diving deeper into understanding these muscles, and discussing how to relax your muscles with acupressure, massage, trigger point work, and meditation.

Join us! Sunday, May 2 at 11am PST.

Sign up here.

Courtney Moore is a licensed acupuncturist in San Francisco, California specializing in spiritual growth. She loves sharing her passion for natural approaches to pain management through her online articles and at her clinic in the Mission district of San Francisco. Call for an appointment at 415-580-2282.

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