Anatomy Fun Fact Corner – TMJ Edition

This week, let’s not forget the role of the lateral pterygoid muscle in controlling the articular disc of the jaw.  This little muscle has an attachment in the sort of meniscus like disc inside the TMJ, so altered tone in it can adversely affect the movements of the jaw.

This muscle can be a potent headache generator, I’ve had a few patients have it refer in an almost sinus like headache pattern, like a column in the front of the face, but without any sinus symptoms.  Doing a gentle muscle release inside the mouth works very well, I tend to use a technique half blended from SOT in chiropractic land and a variation I learned at Dr. Skaggs clinic in St. Louis.

This little guy is a big culprit in side to side jaw tracking issues, it’s the only muscle of mastication which opens the jaw. It has to act in concert with the suprahyoid muscles(under the jaw, above adam’s apple) to open, which can be a bit of a diagnostic question when overactive, lateral pterygoid could be overworking trying to open the jaw when the suprahyoids can’s work well, which is common in patients with deep neck flexor weakness, a common neck issue.  We sometimes use the suprahyoids to help work out deep flexors.  The lateral pterygoids protrude, or push the jaw forward as part of their job, so it creates lots of potential as a source or part of the puzzle when treating TMD problems.

Little refresher on this muscles, the mechanics of the muscles suspending and guiding jaw motion are very complex and this little guy can’t solve all the puzzles, but it’s a piece more often than not.


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