Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2013

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technique @work | the science of movement | | Energy work | Myofascial techniques Working with the Masseter By Til Luchau 1 The masseter bites, chews, and clenches. It's active in talking, in neck stabilization, and whenever your jaw isn't hanging open. When it is overly active or tight, the Attaching to the zygomatic bone (cheekbone), the masseter inserts at the rear of the mandible (jawbone), where it works to elevate, or raise, the mandible. The masseter is sometimes said to be the strongest muscle in the body. This is probably true, at least in terms of the amount of pressure it produces. (The soleus typically pulls strongest overall; the gluteus maximus is the bulkiest; and the heart, eye, and tongue muscles are the most active.) With all muscles of the jaw working together, the masseter can close the teeth with a force as strong as 55 pounds on the incisors or 200 pounds on the molars. And, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, in 1986 Richard Hofmann of Lake City, Florida, achieved a bite strength of 975 pounds for two full seconds. The masseter gets its extraordinary strength from its leverage on the mandible and its complex "multipennate" arrangement—its layered muscle fibers converge diagonally on several internal tendons, analogous to a three-dimensional, many-layered feather with multiple shafts. This arrangement allows many more fibers to attach to each tendon, making it a powerful "low-gear" muscle with extra-strong pull over a short distance. masseter is indicated in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, jaw pain, teeth grinding, headaches, whiplash pain, breathing and sleep disturbances, and more. Since touching and pressing the masseter is an instinctual response to jaw pain or tightness (Image 1), can skilled touch help relieve any of the many conditions related to the masseter? I'll address this question, but first, let's review some interesting masseter facts. The word masseter is from the Greek μασᾶσθαι (masasthai, "to chew"). The word massage is thought to arise from a similar but distinct Greek verb, μάσσω (massō, "to handle, touch, to work with the hands, to knead dough"). 114 massage & bodywork september/october 2013 2 3 The masseter functions to close the jaw during waking hours (Image 2). It also plays a role in neck stability by bracing the mandible against the forces of anterior neck structures (Image 3).

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