• Can Massage Help Tinnitus?

    Stressed girl suffering from noise.

    Clients are always surprised when I tell them that I MAY be able to help them with their tinnitus. Are you surprised, too? Confession: Until a couple years ago, I would have been too.

    What is Tinnitus?

    According to the Mayo Clinic, “Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present.” Some of the the most common sounds are:

    • Ringing
    • Buzzing
    • Clicking
    • Hissing
    • Roaring

    The noise can be loud or soft, in one ear or both, and it may come and go. No matter how it manifests, it’s annoying. It can even interfere with the ability to concentrate or hear sounds if it’s loud enough.

    What Causes Tinnitus?

    Again, using the Mayo Clinic as my reference (because good lord, I don’t know anywhere near everything about tinnitus), the causes include:

    • Inner ear cell damage
    • Age-related hearing loss
    • Exposure to loud noises
    • Earwax blockage
    • Ear bone changes
    • Meniere’s disease – it can be an early symptom or indicator of this inner ear disorder
    • TMJ disorders (TMJD)
    • Head or neck injuries
    • Acoustic neuroma – a benign tumor growing or pressing on the nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear
    • Some blood vessel disorders
    • Some medications

    Where Does Massage Fit In

    You’ll notice that most of the items on the cause list would be way outside of a massage therapist’s scope of practice. However, there are 2 items on the list that we can help with… TMJD and neck injuries.

    One thing the Mayo Clinic doesn’t mention as a cause of tinnitus is active trigger points. That’s right. Trigger points. That’s where we come in.

    There are 3 muscles whose active trigger points can cause tinnitus:

    • Sternocleidomastoid (clavicular branch) – SCM for short
    • Masseter
    • Lateral pterygoid

    Two of those muscles, the masseter and the lateral pterygoid, are located in your jaw, that is… your TMJ. The other one, the SCM, is located in the neck.

    What You Need to Know About Trigger Points

    First, we all have trigger points. Those trigger points are usually latent, meaning they’re not active or symptomatic. It’s only when they become active that they cause problems. The main thing that causes trigger points to become active is muscle overload. Things like TMJD or neck injuries fall under the category of overload. So, if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth in response to stress, have TMJD, or injure your neck, those latent trigger points could easily become active. Those active trigger points could either cause tinnitus, or cause your tinnitus to become worse.

    One Last Point

    Will getting these trigger points worked out guarantee that your tinnitus will go away? No. But, seriously, if your tinnitus is as annoying as mine, isn’t it worth a shot? Seriously, I’m pretty sure the saying “silence is golden” must have been coined by someone with tinnitus.

    PS – When I keep my neck and jaw trigger points under control, the high pitched buzzing that I hear all the time goes down to such a low volume that I can only hear when it’s really quiet.