Tension in the TMJ, or jaw, area of the face is common in many of the clients that I treat in my career as a massage therapist. There are many reasons for this, ranging from a tendency to clench or grind the teeth, frequent singing or a lot of public speaking, or just general stress.
Jaw tension can cause headaches, ringing in the ears and even a runny nose, because the body is a wonderfully whacky thing. Right now, we’re all separated from our massage therapists… and believe me, your therapists miss you. I do. I also miss helping my clients.
Now, self-massage isn’t always effective. The act of reaching for the part of your body you want to massage more often than not activates the muscles you want to work on, which renders the exercise rather pointless. The face, however, can be worked on to an extent. You can do this without oil or lotion, but if you want to add that in, go with something that won’t clog your pores. I suggest coconut or jojoba oil, but if you work this into a face moisturizing regime, you could use your usual product.
- Start off light and general. That basically means that you should gently rub the entire face at first. If you’re using oil/lotion, this is a good time to get it evenly spread. Start at the forehead, above the eyes, and sweep out to the temples and then down over the cheeks, ending at the underside of the chin. Just be cautious around the eyes.
- Once you’ve done that for a minute or two, you can get more specific. Again, start at the forehead and work down, rather than starting at the chin and working up. You can use the edge of your forefingers or flat of the palm to stroke from above the nose towards the temple, then use your fingertips to rub in circles above the eyebrows.
- Come down to your temples. Again, rub in circles, and don’t be afraid to go up to the scalp. Your largest jaw muscle, the temporalis, goes that far. An easy way to find it is to clench and relax your jaw while you explore with your fingers, you should feel it moving. Just don’t massage while clenched.
- Time to pay attention to the cheekbones. Start in next to the nose and trace the underside of the cheekbone from the nose to ear. Repeat this several times at least, but you can do it for longer. Try not to dive right in with all your might, the pressure should be gradually increased, not suddenly.
- Next, come down over the cheeks. Again, start in near the nose, just beneath the cheek bones and stroke down towards the chin with the tips of your fingers. Come back up, this time a bit further out and do this again. Then again, until you’ve covered the whole cheek. You have more jaw muscles than you realize, and the major ones are in the cheeks, so don’t skip out on the inner part.
- Stroke over the mouth from the center of the lips and out, then do the same below.
- Stroke around your lower jawbone. This is the mandible, the moveable part of your jaw. Using the tips of your fingers, stroke from the center outwards, above the bone, over the curve of the jaw, and also under it. There are muscles down there that you don’t think about, the ones that move the tongue. All you singers and frequent talkers, this is an important one for you.
- You’re not done yet. Massage is like working out. Just as you warmed up with lighter, general strokes, you also have to cool down. Repeat the same light, general strokes you made at the start from the forehead, around to the temples, over the cheeks and down to the chin.
A few things that you should note:
- do not massage to the point of pain. If what you are doing hurts, ease back to a lighter pressure.
- Do not dive right into firmness, either, you need to build up to that.
- If you have any cuts on your face, don’t do this. Wait until it heals.
- If you have pre-existing medical conditions involving the face/jaw, consult your doctor before attempting this.
- If you want to use a lotion or oil on your face that you’ve never used before, do a spot test first. Put a tiny amount on a tiny area of skin and wait for at least twelve hours to make sure that you don’t have a negative reaction. (And again, you can do this with no oil or lotion at all).
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. And once again, be kind to yourselves and those around you.