Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
There are 3 or 4 patterns that come off the trigger points in the temporalis. Each one has a band of pain that extends upward and associated sensitivity in the upper teeth. Like the bands of pain, the trigger points in the front create sensitivity in the front teeth, and the trigger points in the back create sensitivity in the back teeth.
Here, you’ll find information about the two trigger points that are closer to the eye.
People complain of a headache as they trace their hands up and down the side of their head. Temporalis always supports the jaw while awake, so this headache is often constant and really bothersome.
They may also complain of getting a headache when wearing a headband, hat, or helmet. I have a particularly large head and would get these when trying on motorcycle helmets when I was younger. It probably saved my life. Mom would’ve killed me if she found out I had bought a motorcycle.
They usually don’t complain about tooth pain unless the massage therapist asks. It just doesn’t seem like that is something about which someone should complain to the bodyworker.
When I ask, they often say that they have sensitive teeth and that it is just because they’re a little more sensitive than most people. They often remark that they use “that toothpaste” for sensitive teeth. When I ask them to get more specific, the headache pattern and sensitive teeth almost always match the referral illustrations.
By the way, sometimes this comes after dental work or when dental work is needed. If the tooth is sharply sensitive, loose, or had recent work, consult your dentist. Also, consult them if you get relief but the pain returns after eating or sleeping.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
The most common problem is that the person has had a blow to the head in a vehicle accident, sports injury, or fall. One client bumped her head on a cabinet while putting up dishes.
Once it is activated, it is bothered using the muscle too much or pressing into it.
It gets overused by vigorous or prolonged chewing. This is usually eating something like taffy, crunchy pretzels or chewing a big piece of gum. The sensitivity tends to make people think that something cold bothered their teeth and gave them a headache. Usually, it is chewing something like steak or chewy vegetables that activated the trigger point, and the tooth became sensitive to cold from the trigger point referral.
Ball caps, headbands, helmets, and other headgear presses into the side of the brow or temple aggravate this trigger point. I got this sleeping on a tour bus with my head against the window. Occasionally bumping over railroad tracks would jar it against the frame of the window.
Very Similar Pain Pattern, Different Muscle
This other headache pattern is very similar and more common.
Instead of sensitive teeth, it may produce sinus congestion, dizziness, blurred vision, and a little tension behind the ear. It is activated by common activities like pulling your head forward and to one side to watch TV, play with your phone or read.
The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain
Start by Understanding the Anatomy.
About the coloring of the illustrations…
The temporalis muscle has a tough fascial covering and seldom relaxes. This post has more about the anatomy of the temporalis muscle.
Getting Relief on Your Own
This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.
Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.
This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.
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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.