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The Temporalis Muscle, Jaw Pain, and Headaches

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Often an over-the-counter pain reliever or visit to your chiropractor can help remedy the common headache. In fact, they’re so common that 95% of women and about 90% of men experience headaches, according to the Harvard Medical School. But not all headaches are created equal. While many are induced by growing stress, a sore neck, or cramping back — it’s not uncommon for some headaches to be related to your jaw muscles. How? Find out below.

What Is The Temporalis Muscle

Your body consists of over 600 muscles. 4 of them, as Teach Me Anatomy explains, are responsible for your chewing. They include the masseter, medial pterygoid, lateral pterygoid, and temporalis muscle. The fourth is the temporalis muscle, commonly known as the temporal muscle. It helps you close your jaw and connects the side of the skull to the lower jawbone.

Can The Temporalis Muscle Cause Pain and Headaches

A case study in the Journal of Oral Research helps explain how occasionally the tendon of the temporal muscle can be the source of pain. Tooth clenching or grinding, prolonged mouth opening, muscle strains, nail-biting, and trauma, such as whiplash, can create inflammation within the tendon leading to the pain you might feel. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your lower jaw to your skull, can also become inflamed within the chewing muscles, often due to teeth clenching or grinding. And according to a study published in BioMed Research International, those with TMJ disorder (TMD) often experience pain and soreness.

The pain and discomfort, however, sometimes travel beyond your jaw. When your temporalis muscle becomes inflamed, overworked, and tired, the pain can spread throughout your body — to your ears, shoulders, neck, and skull. According to the Cleveland Clinic, headaches can and do occur when it reaches the head, including the occasional migraine.

How To Relieve Temporalis Muscle Pain

Not to worry. There are many ways to treat the pain from your temporalis muscle, as well as the headaches. After a thorough dental examination, your dentist can recommend the right treatment for your situation. Depending on the cause and severity of your pain and headaches, treatment options include:

  • Resting the jaw
  • Cold or hot compression
  • Local anesthetics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Surgery(in the rarest of cases)
  • Oral splints or mouth guards
  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs

A variety of causes can trigger headaches. If you feel that your temporalis muscle or TMJ is to blame, see your dentist and devise a treatment plan right for you.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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