Pressure Points to Treat TMJ

Written by: Kevin Cash



Time to read 7 min

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain can be a nuisance at its best, and a debilitating condition at its worst. Whether you’re experiencing mild or severe TMJ pain, chances are you want to relieve it quickly and effectively.

Luckily, activating the correct acupressure points can relieve some of the tension and pain caused by TMJ.

We will also highlight trigger points that aid in alleviating TMJ Pain and discomfort, suggesting at-home exercises for relieving TMJ pain, and providing guidance on when it might be necessary to seek medical attention for this condition. It covers various aspects including pointing out triggers that induce TMJ pain.

To dive deeper, let's first examine what triggers TMJ pain and understand how specific trigger points and exercises can offer relief.

What Triggers TMJ Pain?

Woman having TMJ pain

The temporomandibular joint disorder is a common condition that causes jaw pain and tension in the jaw and its surrounding areas.

We can blame the pain on the masseter muscle, which covers the jaw over your teeth. The masseter muscle plays a significant role in mastication (chewing) and is essential for proper jaw movement and function.

Issues with the masseter muscle, such as tension or spasms, can contribute to TMJ pain and related jaw discomfort. Pain can range from mild to extreme, affecting anything from the jaw joints, muscles, and ligaments.

It can also cause headaches and pain in the areas beyond the jaw, depending on how severe the tension is.

Factors that can trigger TMJ Pain:

  • Bruxism (Tooth Grinding/Clenching) - This can cause excessive tension in the jaw area, which can have painful consequences on the joints and ligaments.
  • Stress and Anxiety - Jaw clenching may be worsened during times of heightened anxiety or stress, making the TMJ worse during these periods too.
  • Jaw Injuries - Breaking or dislocating your jaw, including fractures, dislocations, or impact injuries, can result in TMJ pain.
  • Arthritis - The onset or progression of arthritis in the temporomandibular joint area can contribute to discomfort and pain.
  • Malocclusion (Misalignment of Teeth) - Issues with bite alignment or dental occlusion may strain the jaw, leading to TMJ symptoms.
  • Chewing Habits - Habitual chewing of tough or hard foods, excessive gum chewing, or overuse of the jaw muscles can contribute to TMJ pain.
  • Muscle Tension - Strained or tense muscles in the face, neck, or shoulders can impact the jaw joint which can contribute to the pain.

Often, TMJ pain is caused by a number of these factors combined, which can result in very painful effects that need immediate relief.

5 Trigger Points to Help Relieve TMJ Pain

There are multiple pressure points to help relieve TMJ pain. Massaging and stimulating these specific points can induce relaxation in the tense muscles and ligaments responsible for the discomfort, enabling you to proceed with your day without experiencing any pain.

In this section, we have gathered some of the best TMJ pressure points for you to turn to next time you’re experiencing TMJ pain.

1. Stomach 5 (ST 5) - Daying or Great Reception

ST 5 pressure point

ST 5, referred to as the Great Reception or "Daying" in Traditional Chinese medicine, stands out as an effective trigger point for alleviating TMJ pain.

It's located anteriorly to the angle of the mandible, precisely along the jawline where the jaw protrudes and alters direction. Another way to pinpoint this spot is by identifying the pulsation of your facial artery.

Applying gentle pressure to this point serves as an excellent method for easing TMJ pain.

Benefits of activating the ST 5:

  • Effective for Toothaches
  • Reduces Cheek Swelling
  • Addresses Trismus (Lockjaw)
  • Aids Dry Mouth

By targeting ST 5, individuals might experience improved blood circulation in the facial region, leading to enhanced facial muscle relaxation.

This can potentially aid in reducing tension not only in the TMJ but also in surrounding muscles, contributing to relief from jaw-related issues.

The activation of ST 5 may also assist in promoting better salivary gland function, potentially helping to alleviate symptoms of dry mouth, and facilitating a more balanced oral environment.

2. Stomach 6 (ST 6) - Jiache or Jawbone

ST 6 pressure point

ST 6 is the Jawbone pressure point. It is also known as Jiache in Chinese medicine is another way to effectively alleviate TMJ pain.

Locating this pressure point involves clenching your teeth and contracting your cheeks.

Positioned halfway between the corner of your mouth and the bottom of your earlobes, you will feel (and potentially see) jaw muscles that are flexing. This specific area is where gentle pressure and massage can be applied.

Benefits of targeting the ST 6:

  • Alleviates jaw spasms and pain associated with TMJ discomfort.
  • Addresses toothaches and tension-induced swelling in the jaw area.

Stimulating ST 6 can also help improve jaw mobility and reduce stiffness. Regular activation of this pressure point may contribute to overall relaxation of the jaw area and lessen the intensity and frequency of TMJ pain and symptoms.

3. Stomach 7 (ST 7) - Xiaguan or Below the Joint

ST 7 pressure point

Another fantastic TMJ pressure point is the Xiaguan (Below the Joint) point, also commonly known as ST 7.

This point can be located on your face, directly in front of your ear. You should feel a small depression or soft spot in this area, which is the point you want to stimulate.

Benefits of targeting the ST 7:

  • Alleviates difficulty in mouth opening.
  • Eases pain around the mouth area and toothaches.
  • Provides relief from nasal congestion.
  • Addresses symptoms of tinnitus.
  • Assists in managing deafness.

It is a great pressure point to have at your fingertips as it offers such widespread relief.

4. Gallbladder 2 (GB 2) - Tinghui or Hearing Convergence

GB 2 pressure point

If you have a particularly awful toothache due to TMJ, GB 2 is a good pressure point to turn to for relief.

According to Traditional Chinese medicine, GB 2 removes obstructions from the channel, benefits the ears, and expels exterior wind.

This pressure point can be found by opening your mouth and feeling your tragus and the small depression that appears there.

You should be able to feel the depression appear and disappear as you open your mouth.

Benefits of targeting the GB 2:

  • Alleviates symptoms of deafness.
  • Assists in managing tinnitus-related discomfort.
  • Eases toothache associated with TMJ issues.
  • Addresses motor impairment in the temporomandibular joint.

GB 2 pressure point also exhibits potential benefits for other conditions such as mumps-related discomfort and aiding in the management of eye and mouth deviation.

5. San Jiao 17 (SJ 17 or TE 17) - Yifeng or Wind Screen

TE 17 pressure point

Stimulating SJ 17, also known as Yifeng or Wind Screen is a highly effective way of gaining some relief from TMJ-related pain.

SJ 17 improves the ears, soothes the ear, eliminates wind, clears heat, activates the channel, and alleviates pain.

You can locate this pressure point by feeling behind the bottom of your earlobe. There should be a depression at this point on either side of the top of the neck, which is where the pressure point is located.

Benefits of targeting the SJ 17:

  • Reduces cheek swelling associated with TMJ.
  • Eases toothache related to temporomandibular joint issues.
  • May aid in addressing facial paralysis.
  • Potentially beneficial for symptoms of deafness or hearing issues.
  • Assists in managing tinnitus discomfort.

The point is also considered to dispel wind, benefit the head/face and ears, and activate the meridian.

Home Exercises to Help With TMJ Disorder

Senior man exercising jaw

As well as utilizing trigger points to help relieve TMJ pain, incorporating specific at-home exercises can aid in managing TMJ disorder.

These exercises aim to strengthen the jaw muscles, enhancing their resilience against tension and reducing the likelihood of pain occurrence.

Here are some easy, at-home exercises you can perform alongside stimulating your trigger points to help you get on top of TMJ pain:

  • Chin tucks - Tuck your chin downwards to create a double chin, hold, and repeat for 5 to 10 reps
  • Jaw relaxation - Bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth while opening and closing your mouth. Focus on feeling your jaw muscles tense and relax as you perform this exercise
  • Mouth resistance - While placing your thumb under your chin, open your mouth and apply pressure with your thumb to create resistance. Hold this position for several seconds before closing your mouth and repeating.

Aside from at-home manual therapy, you can also find relief from specialists with a comprehensive understanding of the TMJ such as chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and osteopathic physicians.

When to See a Doctor for TMJ

Senior woman having jaw pain

While there are steps you can take to alleviate symptoms of TMJ pain at home, they may not be sufficient in more severe cases.

If your TMJ pain is causing you constant distress or taking you away from your regular work or everyday activities, you likely need to see a healthcare professional.

It's advisable to consult a doctor if:

  1. Persistent pain or tenderness in the jaw makes it difficult to open or close the mouth completely.
  2. Severe pain in the jaw, ear, head, neck, or facial pain due to TMJ disorder.
  3. Popping and clicking sounds in the jaw.
  4. Ear pain, cracking, or popping sound from the ear.
  5. Headache and migraines.
  6. Stiff jaw and neck muscles.
  7. Excruciating jaw pain while chewing.

Also, if you experience jaw locking or have difficulty eating or speaking, it's advisable to consult a qualified healthcare professional for their assessment and advice.

What to Remember About TMJ Pressure Points

Understanding TMJ pressure points involves several key considerations highlighted in this discussion.

Precision in identifying the exact location of pressure points is crucial for effective relief.

These pressure points also extend their benefits beyond TMJ pain, addressing symptoms such as toothaches, cheek swelling, and even issues like tinnitus, deafness, or facial paralysis.

Also, Integrating pressure point stimulation with at-home exercises to keep your jaw muscles smooth proves complementary for reducing jaw tension.

However, in severe cases such as persistent jaw pain, jaw locking, or difficulty eating or speaking, seeking professional medical advice becomes crucial for accurate diagnosis and tailored pain treatment plans.

Understanding individual responses and knowing when to seek professional guidance is key to effectively managing TMJ discomfort.