Miserable Muscle Number Three – The Temporalis Muscle. This One’s the Clencher

Miserable Muscle Number Three – the Temporalis. This one’s the Clencher

Where are the temporalis muscles?

Your temporalis muscles are located on your temples. They are a frequent source of throbbing headache pain. They are one of the main muscles that cause headaches. Several of the other main headache muscles, the sternocleidomastoid and the upper trapezius muscles, send pain to the head even though they are not in actual contact with the area of the head that is hurting. Your temporalis muscles don’t send pain anywhere else. If you are a headache sufferer, you are well-acquainted with these muscles. You may often frantically rub these muscles to get relief from the throbbing pain the temporalis muscles produce.

     How do I treat a sore temporalis muscle?

For a long time, I thought the only way to relieve headaches caused by the temporalis muscle was to massage it, or use heat or cold on it. After all, how do you stretch a muscle that is attached to your skull? Yet, there is a unique way to stretch this muscle to decrease the tenderness.

How do you do this special stretch? The temporalis attaches to your jaw as well as your head. Realize that the temporalis muscle helps to close the jaw during the food chewing process. Put your finger on the muscle and you will feel the muscle tighten up as you bite down. Unfortunately, the temporalis muscle often tightens up as a reaction to stress. One simple way to relax your clenched temporalis muscle is to put your hand on your chin, and then gently, without pain, let your jaw open as far as comfortable. You will stretch the temporalis muscle as you open your jaw.

Don’t let the muscle get tight in the first place! You very likely are unconsciously clamping your jaw shut in response to your daily stresses. Simply let your jaw relax and open it just a bit and you will interrupt this clenching pattern.

   How can this muscle affect my jaw problem?

You may have heard of a condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The temporalis muscle worsens the jaw problem when it clenches tightly. Headaches are also aggravated by this clenching. A quick trick to help disengage your tight temporalis muscle is to put the tip of your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, as if you are saying the letter “N”. Your tongue should not touch the teeth. If you try to talk, you should sound somewhat like Forrest Gump if your tongue is in the right position. The muscles that clamp the jaw down can then release, the temporalis among them.

Check yourself multiple times during the day to make sure you are not clenching your jaw.  If you wake at night with your jaw closed tightly, put your tongue up in the roof of your mouth to interrupt the jaw clenching cycle. Your morning headaches may be caused by an overactive temporalis muscle clenching during the night. A special night splint can do wonders to help disengage your jaw clenching habit. Check with your dentist to check out this treatment.

   Are there any acupressure points in the temporalis muscle I can use?

There are acupressure points in and near the temporalis muscle you can use to treat your headache. One powerful point called Stomach 8, which is located about three inches upwards and diagonally from the orbit of the eye. The name has little bearing with the affliction we are trying to treat, just like most of the points you will learn about on these blogs. Nonetheless, pushing on this point produces a rapid wave of relief for many of my long-suffering headache clients. If you push this point, you may experience a wave of relief spreading across half of your head. Once you learn how to find this point quickly, you will see how it can bring faster relief than simply randomly massaging the side of your head.

Another useful point for pain along the side of the head is the point Taiyang. Place your finger along the outer orbit of your eye, then move it back about one inch or 2.5 centimeters. You can always tell if you are on an acupressure point as it will be more sensitive than the surrounding tissue. Apply a medium pressure circular motion around this point to get relief.

Can pain in the temporalis muscle mean there is something serious wrong with me?

One dreadful possibility than I am aware if, but have never seen, is when a constant, throbbing headache pain in the temple comes from a condition called temporal arteritis. The temporal arteries become inflamed, and some of those blood vessels branches off to the eye. Inflammation in these arteries can cause eye damage. (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15674-temporal-arteritis)  If you have vision problems along with your temporal headaches, contact your physician immediately so that you can avoid vision loss.  Always make sure your headaches are not masking some other underlying medical condition.

   Let go of your temporalis tension

Natural treatments can work well to ease up temporalis muscle pain. You can add gentle heat to your temporalis and jaw to relax it. Massage, stretching and frequent checking your jaw to make sure it is not getting tight can release the tension in this muscle. Break your clenching habit, and you can break up your jaw and headache pain!



-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer. Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.


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