The Strongest Muscle in Your Body Is Also the Tightest—Here’s How to Stretch It Out
Grinding of the teeth, or bruxism, is so common that you might be doing it without even realizing it. If you're doing it as you sleep, you might wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, a headache, and damage to your teeth. Not exactly the best way to start your day. One way to get some relief is a daily masseter massage, says Inna Chern, DDS, a dentist in New York City.
The masseter muscle is the strongest muscle in your body by weight. "The masseter is one of three muscles known as elevator muscles, and those muscles are responsible for closing the mouth and setting the teeth together so we can chew. The masseter is located behind the cheeks and can generate hundreds of pounds of force," sats Dr. Chern. That force is compounded when you clench your jaw or grind your teeth.
"Like any other sore muscle, it's important to relieve the tension before it becomes chronically problematic," says Dr. Chern. "A masseter massage is a great way to help alleviate the strain that's often felt in the morning hours after a bout of grinding while asleep, and it often helps with grinding-related headaches and migraines."
It's incredibly easy to do, too. All you need to do is apply firm kneading motions to massage the masseter with your fingers or knuckles, says Dr. Chern.
How to give yourself a masseter massage
1. Find it
The masseter muscle is located right along your cheeks on both sides of your jaw, running vertically from in front of your ear to the angle of your jaw. "If you clench, you can feel it get stiff and engage," says Dr. Chern.
2. Knead it
After locating the muscle, use your fingers or knuckles (with closed fists) to firmly press into it. Holding on any trigger points will help release the muscle tension,
3. Massage it
Whenever you're feeling tense, spend a few minutes giving yourself a masseter massage with closed fists on either side of your face until you feel the strain release. "The frequency of massage can vary from several times a day to every few days depending on how often you grind and feel soreness," says Dr. Chern.
To release tension in the rest of your body, try this yoga flow:
Crisscross your downward dog for a hip stretch that feels like heaven. And try the easiest way to sneak stretches into any workout.
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