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Self Care – TMJ stretch

Here, you will find a safe, basic routine for balancing the musculature that supports the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). It provides relief from mild TMJ dysfunction, especially when used daily.

The temporomandibular joint could be to be the most complex joint in the body. It has to accommodate a combination of hinging, gliding, and rotary motions. These stretches help with all those motions.


This series stretches some of the basic motions of the TMJ and, when done with measured speed and tension, balances the mechanism. Use the ice-and-stretch method. It can offer immediate relief for many TMJ imbalances.

Do each stretch to the point of slight tension and hold it for about 2 seconds. If you’re doing ice-and-stretch, four reps usually work well for each stretch. If you are not using ice-and-stretch, do 10-12 gentle stretches.

Start With Icing

When using ice-and-stretch, ice along all of the areas of muscle shown in this illustration before starting the first stretch. It will make this process more comfortable, faster, and more effective. Topical creams like IcyHot will irritate your eyes.

Open Wide

This stretches the temporalis, masseter, and medial pterygoids.

  • If you get a single click on the first opening, it will often resolve when this routine is used once or twice a day.
  • If you get repeated clicking, you should see your TMJ specialist for an evaluation.

Avoid this if you are having problems with your jaw locking in the open position. See a TMJ specialist for evaluation.

Shift Right

You should feel the tension on the right as it stretches the lateral pterygoid. If you want to get extra stretching, focus on more repetitions, not more force. This approach will make the stretching easier and more effective.

Shift Left

You should feel the tension on the left as it stretches the lateral pterygoid. If you want to get extra stretching, focus on more repetitions, not more force. This approach will make the stretching easier and more effective.


This stretches the digastricus and the retrodiscal tissue. Be gentle, as this can feel sharp in the joint when you are too aggressive.

Avoid this if you get open locks and see your TMJ practitioner for an evaluation.


This stretch focuses on the lateral pterygoid but also stretches the deep masseter.

Check Your Progress

This should be easier and open wider with less pain and tension.

I’d love your feedback on how this works for you
and any suggestions you might have.
Email me at [email protected].

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistencies in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.