Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People complain about their headache as they trace their eyebrow with their fingers. This is the pattern that happens right in the eyebrow. There are other patterns that happen above or below the eyebrow. Further assessment is needed to pinpoint this trigger point. The sure sign is when I press into the corner of the jaw (where the green asterisks are) and the headache intensifies.
When I’m working, I may ask about pain in the teeth or jaw when I find this trigger point. They usually associate it with a tooth problem and something that the dentist should address instead of the massage therapist. They often brush it off as something they have had and need to get their teeth checked, I am sure to ask before and after treatment as well as the following session to help them understand that it is part of the trigger point referral. I always encourage them to follow-up with the dentist, even if I have eliminated the pain and discomfort.
The trigger points, indicated in green, are near the angle of the mandible and are usually very sensitive when pressed. The whole pattern is usually not reported unless the pattern is very active and the client is asked about details. This brings up an interesting note about the trigger point illustrations. The darker areas are darker because of how often they are a part of the pattern not because of the intensity of the referral.
Wow. Look at that jaw. That hairstyle is pretty shocking too. Yes, I was into computers.
I was hospitalized for a week with migraines during one Christmas season in my 20s. By the way, I worked for that hospital as the IT manager of one of their billing companies. My boss assured me that they would take good care of me. I paid a lot to have them tell me that they did not know what caused the headaches.
Those headaches were awful. They would start as a dull ache in the morning and I would be shut down by the evening. Several months later, the headache returned. I had a toothache in the roots of those molars as well. I got out the yellow pages. I had gotten my first massage a few months earlier from a guy who had recently taken neuromuscular classes. (By the way, he is now a regular client of mine.) I went to a neuromuscular therapist who gave me a great deal of relief in an hour for $40. I saw her weekly for a while.
Here is a picture of me, 31 years later. Different hair. Really different jaw. I remember taking the course and feeling how much more space I had behind my back teeth. The size of the jaw shrank over a week. Later, I rewrote that course and taught it with craniosatructural techniques.
I created my TMJ issue by grinding my teeth while weight-lifting and chewing on pens at work. I’ve had people come to me with similar problems from chewing on toothpicks or grinding their teeth at night. Most people do not have a good explanation about why their jaw is so large or tight. This usually develops as a problem that is secondary to imbalances in the cranium and neck.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
This, like other masseter trigger points, is usually activated by unusual jaw activity, like crunching ice, busting popcorn kernels, or chewing on toothpicks. Nearby joint problems, especially the upper neck joints, are usually a part of perpetuating this pattern.
This one, however, is usually intensified by clenching or excessive chewing.
A bad tooth can also cause a deviant chewing pattern that aggravates this trigger point. This trigger point irritates the tooth and jaw as well, often creating cracking teeth and irritation.
The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain
Getting Relief on Your Own
This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch, ice, and more to relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.
Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork
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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.
*This site is undergoing major 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 inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.