The Temporalis Muscle
The temporalis muscle is located on the side of the skull and is the muscle that covers the temple.
Temporalis trigger points cause a wide area of pain in the head and face. They can cause and contribute to headaches on the side of the head and in the front of the head over the eye.
A common symptom of trigger points in the temporalis is sensitivity and pain in the upper teeth. Pain may occur when you bite down making chewing difficult. Upper teeth may become sensitive to warm and cold foods and drinks. You may feel as if your teeth don't fit together as they should.
The temporalis muscle is one of the muscles involved in TMJ (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction).
Contents of Article
What pain and symptoms are associated with the temporalis muscle?
The temporalis is usually the culprit when you experience a headache on the side of the head near the temple. Trigger points can also cause pain in the area of the eyebrow and/or over the top and behind the ear.
Jaw and Mouth Pain
Though the muscle is located over the temple the muscle connects to the jawbone (mandible) and is one of the muscles that we use to chew and talk. Trigger points in the muscle can cause referred pain in the jaw, cheek, and upper teeth. You may experience pain when biting down and your teeth may be sensitive, especially to hot and/or cold temperatures. Some may experience the sensation of malocclusion which is a feeling that your teeth do not fit together properly.
Where is the temporalis muscle?
The temporalis muscle covers the temple area of the skull and extends down to attach to the lower jaw (mandible).
What movements does it control?
- Closes the jaw
- Moves the jaw to the side
- Moves the jaw back to neutral position
- Holds the bottom of the jaw (mandible bone) in a resting position
For detailed anatomy information: Temporalis Muscle Anatomy Page
What Causes Trigger Points In the Temporalis Muscle?
A direct blow to the side of the face or head
Whether it is because of a fall or you have a hard blow to the side of the head you may develop trigger points in the temporalis and other muscles in the area.
Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw
Many people grind their teeth and clench their jaw especially when under stress. If you have a tendency to clench your jaw become conscious of the habit and instead slightly open your mouth to avoid clenching. People who grind their teeth most often do it while sleeping and may not realize they are doing it. If you are experiencing pain in the jaw, side of the face or head talk to your dentist. You may need a mouthpiece to stop the damage to your teeth and stop the pain in your head and jaw.
Another thing that falls under this is chewing gum a lot. Gum chewing constantly works the temporalis muscle which can lead to the development of trigger points.
Smartphones and Text Neck
Constantly bending your head down to read your phone or tablet affects the muscle and can lead to soreness in the jaw and development of trigger points. This also applies to holding a book in your lap and bending your head down to read.
Forward Head Posture
If you have forward head posture where the head extends out in front of the body the temporalis stays in a stretched position and will likely cause trigger points in the muscle. Talk to a personal trainer or physical therapist about exercises that can help improve your posture.
Whiplash affects many muscles in the upper body and sometimes affects the temporalis. If you are having headaches in the temple area or experiencing teeth pain or sensitivity you should check the muscle for trigger points.
Temporalis Muscle Trigger Point Treatment
Self-treating the temporalis is easy. Place your fingertips in front of your ear at the jaw joint and massage up and diagonally using gentle pressure. Use the muscle diagram further up on the page as a guide. You should massage in the direction of the muscle fibers, not against, do not use a straight up and down motion. Massage the entire muscle feeling for small knots, tight bands of tissue, or areas that cause pain to increase. If you find one these, stop and apply gentle to medium pressure for 10 seconds and then continue the massage looking for other tender areas. Do not hold pressure longer than 10 seconds as this will irritate the spot. Trigger points respond best to several short treatments spread throughout the day.
The best resource to learn how to treat small painful knots is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger points and their effects in everyday language, not medical speak. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to treat their own muscle pain.
The temporalis muscle can contribute to pain throughout the side of the head and the facial area. The Huggaroo Head Wrap can be positioned to cover the entire muscle and bring needed relief. It can be used warm or cold for headaches, TMJ, and eye strain.
Interesting facts about the temporalis muscle
- The temporalis muscle is heavily involved in temporal mandibular joint dysfunction
- The temporalis muscle can cause discomfort in the upper teeth. The teeth may be more sensitive to hot and cold than bothered by pain.
Clinical diagnoses to which the temporalis muscle symptoms may contribute:
- Tension Headaches
- Migraine Headaches
- C2 radiculopathy
- Temporal Tendinitis
- Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
- Broken Teeth
Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the temporalis:
Satellite trigger points associated with the muscle:
If you find trigger points in the splenius capitis you will want to check these muscles for additional trigger points.
- Temporalis on opposite side
- Masseter on the same side
Other Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns