The masseter muscle is the facial muscle that is largely responsible for chewing foods. It connects the lower jaw bone and the cheekbone. The masseter muscles consist of two tiers; the superficial and deep parts.
During chewing, the masseter is assisted by three other muscles: the temporalis, medial pterygoid, and lateral pterygoid. The four muscles work together to pull the jaw down and back up again. The masseter is the key muscle that pulls the mandible upward.
Not only is the masseter responsible for chewing, but it also bears the conscious or subconscious burden of teeth grinding and jaw clenching. The amount of stress put on the masseter muscle leads to common ailments such as headaches and TMJ dysfunction.
Headaches can originate from just about any muscle or combination of muscles in the head or neck.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and like any joint can be aggravated by its adjacent musculature. While there are certainly joint issues that can cause TMJ many cases result from a muscular aggravation of the masseter.
Access to this muscle is simple given its orientation to the hands. To work the masseter, start at the attachments just below the cheekbone and work your way down. Then massage the attachments on the jaw bone and work your way up. Finally, gently apply pressure to the belly or middle of the muscle working out any areas of tenderness as needed. If you have any questions about where this muscle is located, simply clench your jaw for a moment and it will stick out like a sore thumb.
It is impossible to completely relax when you are performing any muscular self-care. So while it is always helpful it’s no substitute for professional treatment and a regular massage maintenance plan.