TMJ Muscle Series: Lateral Pterygoid

April 8, 2021 Muscles, TMJ 0

The lateral pterygoid muscle is one of the muscles of mastication.  This muscle is a key player in moving the low part of your jaw forward.  What makes this muscle extra cool and of note to those that suffer from TMJ, is that the lateral pterygoid muscle attaches to the capsule and disc of the TMJ.  This means that for people that have TMJ pain as a result of their disc shifting forward; they might want to consider having their lateral pterygoid worked on.  The lateral pterygoid muscle is almost triangular in shape and it has two heads.  There is a nerve that passes through the lateral pterygoid muscle called the buccal nerve.  This nerve provides sensory information to the skin over the cheek.

When the lateral pterygoid muscles from each side of jaw work together (bilateral contraction) they bring your lower jaw forward.  However, if just one side contracts (unilateral contraction) then it pulls your jaw to the side.  To get really good side to side motion (like what we think of when cows eat) the lateral and medial pterygoid muscles from opposite sides of the jaw work together.

Cases for lateral pterygoid work:

  1. TMJ pain
  2. Your jaw doesn’t track smoothly when you open and close your jaw
  3. You get popping noises when you move your jaw 
  4. You are getting tingling over your cheek