Relaxing Exercises for the Lateral Pterygoid

As one of the major mastication muscles located in your temporomandibular joint — also known as the TMJ or jaw — the lateral pterygoid helps stabilize and move your jaw. This muscle plays a role in chewing, opening your mouth and moving your jaw forward and from side-to-side. Relaxing exercises can help reduce jaw pain and improve your jaw's range of motion or keep it operating at a healthy level. Since all exercises may not be suitable for your medical condition, check with your doctor first.

Thumb Stretching

Post-isometric relaxation maneuvers will help increase your jaw's range of motion by balancing your muscle load and reducing tension in your jaw muscles, according to the journal "Massage Today." Using your thumbs as exercise tools will help during your relaxing exercises for the lateral pterygoid. Lie down on your back in a comfortable position. Slowly and gently open your mouth enough to allow two fingers to fit inside. Place both thumbs onto your chin. Slowly close your mouth by applying gentle resistance with your thumb. Hold position 20 seconds. Release pressure and return to original position. Relax 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise five times.

Gentle Tongue Maneuvers

Start using your tongue as an exercise tool as part of your relaxing exercises for the lateral pterygoid. Do some tongue stretches by either sitting upright in a comfortable chair, lying on your back in bed or on a sofa or while standing. Close your mouth and place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, directly behind your front teeth, Chiropractic-Help.com instructs. While keeping your teeth together, slowly run your tongue along the top of your mouth until you reach a soft tissue area. Keep your tongue in place and slowly open your mouth to stretch your jaw muscles. Open your mouth as wide as possible without moving your tongue. Stop the maneuver as soon as you feel your tongue move away from your mouth's roof. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Slowly return to original position. Relax 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise twice.

Direct Massage

Use your index finger as an exercise tool while relaxing your lateral pterygoid. Do a self-massage maneuver that involves applying direct pressure to your pterygoid muscles. Start by either sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on your back. Gently open your mouth and move your index finger as far back as possible inside your mouth. Place the pad of your index finger on the crevice located between your cheek and upper teeth. This crevice, known as the pterygoid pocket, will be where your pterygoid muscle is located, according to Chiropractic-Help.com. Gently massage this area for 10 seconds. Remove your finger and close your jaw. Relax 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise twice.

Simple Stretches

Doing some simple, passive stretching will gently relax your jaw muscles, dentist Steven R. Pohlhaus writes on his Baltimore Center for Laser Dentistry website. Include some easy muscle stretchers as part of your relaxing exercises for the lateral pterygoid. Sit upright in a comfortable chair. Gently and slowly open your mouth until you feel a mild stretch in your jaw muscles. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Slowly close your mouth and relax 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise five times.

About the Author

Crystal Welch has a 30-year writing history. Her more than 2,000 published works have been included in the health and fitness-related Wellness Directory, Earthdance Press and Higher Source. She is an award-winning writer who teaches whole foods cooking and has written a cookbook series. She operates an HON-code-certified health-related blog with more than 95,000 readers. Welch has a B.B.A. from Eastern Michigan University.