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Self Care – TMJ stretch

The temporomandibular joint is arguably, the most complex joint in the body. Its has to accomodate a combination of hinging, gliding and rotary motions.

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

Do each stretch to the point of light 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.

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 much more comfortable, faster, and more effective. Topical creams like IcyHot will irritate your eyes.

Open the mouth wide.

This stretches the temporalis, masseter and medial pterygoids.

If you get a single click on the first opening, it will often resolve with if this routine is used one or twice a day.

If you get repeated clicking, you should see your TMJ specialist for and evaluation.

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

With your lips closed, shift your jaw to the 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 will make the last stretch easier and more effective.

With your lips closed, shift your jaw to the 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 will make the last stretch easier and more effective.


Protrude the jaw (underbite).

This stretches the diagrasticus 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.

Retract the jaw (overbite).

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

Reevaluate your range of motion and tension when opening.

This is 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 integrativeworks@gmail.com.



This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.


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This post is about the watershed moment that changed the direction of my bodywork. People would say that it is about treating at the source. I’d say that it is about understanding the governors and accessories in a pattern. This gives the therapist and client choices on how to plan on treating for relief or treating to create a body that is self-correcting.

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 major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it 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 inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.

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