Jaw pain and TMJ: Locating bony landmarks

Ear pain, Headaches, Jaw pain, Self-treatment tips, Tips for therapists, TMJ pain / Friday, September 18th, 2009

facial-bones2Find the tragus of your ear with your index fingers. It’s the small pointed flap of cartilage in front of the opening to the inner ear. Feel on the forward side of your fingers for the bony ends of your cheekbone or zygoma. (Zygoma means yoke in Greek.) The zygomatic arch makes a yoke across the cheek, attaching at the front of your cheekbone to the zygomatic bone of the face and at the back side, by the ear at the zygomatic process of the temporal bone of the skull. If you move your index fingers around under the bone near your ear, you’ll find a rounded protrusion. You are now on the temperomandibular joint (TMJ). If you move your jaw side to side you’ll feel the joint move and if you open really wide, you’ll feel a bone pop out of that space. The bone is called the condyle of the mandible. The  mandible is the Latin name for your lower jaw. The upper jaw is called the maxilla. With your index fingers on the bony joint and your middle fingers beside them and under the zygomatic arch, you will feel a soft depression. If you open your jaw slightly you should be able to feel a round indentation if you press inward. That space is the notch of the mandible, a half moon depression cut out of the jaw bone forming a shape suggestive of the top of a slingshot. The vertical bone extending from it down to the angle of your jaw is called the ramus (Latin for branch) of the mandible. It might be seen as acting like a broad handle of the slingshot. At the bottom of the ramus is the angle of the mandible. Extending horizontally from it is the curved “body” of the mandible in which the teeth are set. At the top of the ramus forming the two points of the sling, are the “condyle” (means knuckle) back toward the ear and the “coronoid process” (means crow’s beak) toward the front. When the mouth is closed, the coronoid is covered by the zygomatic process, the forward end of the zygomatic arch that extends over it.

Now that you have found the bony landmarks, you are ready to treat the muscles attaching to them. The next few posts will cover these muscles individually.