Simon says: say “cheese”.
Simon says: pucker your lips.
Simon says: knit your eyebrows.
Simon says: name all the muscles of the face.
Simon just zoomed from a fun-guy to a stick-in-the-mud with one innocent request, didn’t he?
In Simon’s defense, shouldn’t we know the names of the muscles that are responsible for the communication of our personality and expressions all our waking hours? Shouldn’t those soft tissues that convey our thoughts, feelings, and reactions- not to mention perform our basic physiological facial maintenance- get some love? These unsung heroes can make or break poker deals, flash your pearly whites to earn you an extra scoop at the ice cream parlor, or just perform mundane tasks like… lubricate your eyeballs.
With reverence to their tireless efforts, let’s unite and say a little collective thank you to all the muscles of the face and commit to learning a bit more about just one of them. I’ve chosen the lucky winner, the band of fibrous tissue that gets food into my belly and therefore stands out above all the rest, the masseter muscle.
The masseter has a thick, squareish shape and originates on the zygomatic arch (cheek bone) and inserts on the lateral surface of the mandible (lower jaw). It has two portions, the superficial and deep. The superficial fibers can be accessed through topical applications and the deep layer can be accessed by reaching inside the mouth.
The masseter is the strongest muscle in the body relative to its size and is the puppeteer of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Its main action is to elevate the mandible (closing the lower jaw bone to upper jaw bone) and clench the teeth. It also assists in the side-to-side movement of the mandible. Its basic functional movement is chewing food, which is apropos given its name is derived from the latin word, maseter, which translates to “chewer.” This muscle is also used in speaking and swallowing.
When the masseter is unhappy for any reason, it can cause an array of conditions or disorders in the TMJ from chronic pain to grinding of the teeth. It behooves those who appreciate pain free talking, chewing, smiling, and sleeping to give this guy a little love every once and a while.
Check back on Friday for some masseter-loving techniques!