Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Myofascial Release for the Face: Composure, Aesthetics and Mental Health

Our faces are full of tense muscles that hold excessive tension throughout the day and during sleep. The tension throughout our brow, eyes, nose and jaw causes us to feel anxious, and because of our mammalian heritage, it causes us to breathe shallowly. These tense muscles also go through degenerative processes that involve reduced circulation, inflammation, fat deposition, scar tissue development and muscle atrophy. These muscles feel tender when massaged firmly, but compression and deep tissue massage are the only real way to get the tension out. Compression will reinvigorate the muscle, reverse the muscle shortening, increase the blood supply, and allow the muscle to grow and thereby eat up the fat that surrounds it. If you want your face to look healthy, and feel amazing, invest some time and effort in my facial massage regimen as described here.
 Me in 2009:

Me in 2015 after 6 months of myofascial release:

If you take your knuckles or a baseball and press them into your brow, your cheeks or your jaw you will feel a dull but intensely aching pain. This pain can be so strong that it makes your breathing shallow and the pit of your stomach tight. When I started compressing my facial muscles it hurt so bad that I questioned whether I could ever make any progress. In fact, you can feel and see the progress every day. Facial acupressure is actually an old art that may have many benefits but is not yet grounded firmly in science. Also it does not aim to fully relieve the trigger points in the face. I think that the regimen presented here targets the most important myofascial restrictions in the face and guides you to rid yourself of them completely.
I have become convinced that beauty does not come from genes as much as it comes from the environment. Bad social environments influence us to tighten up our faces more. Tense interactions make us raise our brows, squint our eyes, purse our lips and tighten our jaw. Over days, months and years this leaves our facial musculature exhausted, and depleted. If you have several stressful days in a row, or don’t get enough sleep these muscles will tense up further and make you look older and sickly. It also makes you feel more anxious, charging your expressions with neurotic pressure. Last year I realized that my tense facial muscles are a “psychological anchor” for my poor mood. I am convinced that they are involved in depression, anxiety, and even stress related diseases like schizophrenia.
The Brow
The forehead and eyebrows are very tense in most people. They become tense because we raise our eyebrows when trying to make friends, and furrow our eyebrows when we become angry. Different sets of muscles are involved in these two expressions but both become plastered on our face making the brow painful by our mid twenties. Rub your forehead and eyebrows forcefully with you knuckles and you will find that they hurt. It took me a few months massaging about 5 minutes per day but I have absolutely no pain in my brow any longer. For me, the brow directly above the eyes and the muscles under the actual eyebrows hurt the most, but now they are painless. My eyebrows keep still when I talk now, and it actually feels good to raise them. The fact that they are now painless to raise, shows me that they were painful before. Once you have really rubbed out your eyebrows, they don’t react as much on their own, you really need to control them consciously. You do have to teach yourself how to use them again to a certain extent. I had a few bad knots and a good deal of scar tissue around my eyebrows. Because of the compression, they are completely gone now.
It will take weeks or months to remove the tension here. I recommend pressing the full weight of your head into a baseball and moving the baseball all around the forehead, concentrating on the highlighted regions in the figure below. If you do it 5 minutes a day while breathing diaphragmatically you will notice significant relief in a matter of weeks.
One of the most important parts of the brow is right between the eyebrows. This is where you find the procerus muscle. This muscles is responsible for furrowing the eyebrows and the expression of anger. I believe that the tension here makes us feel mad all the time and that relieving this muscle of its tension is very emotionally relieving. I use a metal bar which I place between my brow and my nose to compress the procerus and other soft tissues in this area.
Below the Eyes
The orbicularis oculi muscles are some of the tightest in the face and tension here makes us look old and tired. You should have four particularly sore spots around the eyes. One an inch below each eye from squinting and one an inch above each eye from raising your eyebrows. Massaging this area will help you to stop squinting. I bought a blue squash ball and worked on these for several weeks. The day after they feel especially sore but you can also feel the relief. Don’t skip a day just because the area is sore, work through the soreness. I would do circular motions putting between 3 and 10 pounds of pressure into my cheek bones. I had a small knot about an inch and a half below each eye and reliving myself of these was very freeing.
When a squash ball becomes too soft, slowly and carefully compress these with your knuckles or a baseball, it might take 6 months to work through them completely but I promise if you do it 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, you will see significant weekly results. You will stop squinting so much and the bags under your eyes will disappear.
Most people have a crease that runs from the inside corner of the eye down diagonally toward the cheek. This crease is caused from perpetual squinting – tension in the lower portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle. People who squint more are more likely to have a more prominent crease here and more likely to have darker, discolored bags under the eyes. Compression can take this away completely.
Place the fingertips of your pointer fingers along the edge of your eye’s orbits, the bony ridge that encircles the eyes. If you place them along the lower ridge, just under the eye you should be able to feel painful strings of muscle. At first I thought that these were veins and I assumed that I should leave them alone. They are merely tense muscles and they will completely disappear if you compress them. Push down on them with your fingertips and squeeze them against the orbital bone. When they are gone your squint will disappear, and the skin under your eyes will become smooth and will lose its discoloration.
You also want to pay particular attention to the bony ridges of the corners of your eyes, otherwise known as your orbits. We hold a great deal of tension here, as if we were always on the verge of crying. Releasing this tension make you feel wide-eyed and happier. You can also place the section of the orbit associated with crows feet wrinkles between two of your second knuckles and press inward as you stroke up and down. It will feel painful at first but the pain here can be alleviated in as little as two weeks. Your crows feet will also diminish in size and depth as the muscle becomes healthy and circulation improves.
The Cheeks
I like to focus on the corner of the cheek an inch from the eye. I took the picture below after the first day of massaging this area. My cheeks are raised artificially because of the edema but this is the general look that you can achieve as your cheeks start to blossom out from your face. 
Next focus on the zygomatic muscles on the sides of your cheeks. The zygomatic muscles anchor in the corner of your mouth on one end and the zygoma, or cheek bone, on the other. Take a baseball and press it into the lower portion of your cheek bone where the zygomaticus (minor and major) muscles anchor. This was the sorest place in my entire face. Pressing a baseball into it with five pounds of pressure made me want to cry and I thought that this would never change. Again, the pain is gone completely and took me about 4 months, massaging 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week. These muscles hurt because we use them so often, and we use them nervously. Most smiling is nervous smiling and this means that when we laugh or smile socially our hearts are beating quickly and our breathing is shallow and tense. Muscles that are especially tense when our breathing is shallow become even more tense. Because of this I truly had a crippled smile. Most of us do to different extents. In fact, the strained zygomatic smiling muscles pull on their own tendons causing deep pain. The tendon that attaches the muscles to the cheekbone becomes so strained that it builds up scar tissue and undergoes degenerative cellular processes. This makes our smile rotten. You should be able to feel this point of insertion in the cheek and the inflammation and scar tissue under the skin. This is what you want to compress. I spend 5 minutes a day using either a baseball, my knuckles or the backs of my wrists. Now my smile is bigger, it is unfaltering and it feels good.
In order to really free up your eyes and your cheeks you need to massage and compress the muscles all the way back along your cheek bones to your ears. This whole ridge is probably painful and covered in tense muscle fibers that you can feel. Put this ridge between the second knuckles or your middle and ring fingers and stroke it back and forth. You can ease the tension in this ridge in just a few days. Also try placing the ridge on a hard surface and press it into the surface at different angles.
The Face
Take the second knuckle of your forefingers and press them hard into the space between your nose and your cheeks, on both sides. Work your way from the top of your nose down to the corner of your mouth, along your marionette lines. Also press them hard into the muscles surrounding your cheek bones. You want to compress the following muscles: the levator labii superioris, the zygomaticus minor, the zygomaticus major, the risorius, the buccinator, When I started doing this is was a dense, bold pain. As with other areas you can feel the cellular adhesions between the muscles breaking. Soon this won’t hurt at all. Compressing these muscles allows your face to be generally relaxed and thus it helps with poise and composure.
The Nose
Use your knuckles to compress the nasalis muscles the procerus muscles and the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi.
Also put a towel down on carpet and rest your head on your nose. Pressing the tip of the nose downwards, rock back and forth to massage and compress muscles throughout the nose.
The Ears
You have three auricular muscles that surround each ear. I use my knuckles to compress these, you can alleviate all or most of the tension here within a week.
The Temples
The temporalis muscle helps in chewing and covers much of the temporal bone. When I started trying to release the tension from this muscle I tried icing it with ice packs. This was unbearably painful at the time, so painful that I couldn’t continue. Now, after compressing the tension from my temporalis muscles they are no longer painful to ice. I used my knuckles using small circular motions all along the belly of this large muscle. Now the side of my face flexes when I chew and talk and a low grade perpetual headache that I used to have is gone. Also try watching TV lying down with your temporal muscle pressed into a softball.
The Mouth and Lips
Tension in the mouth and lips seems imperceptible, I rarely noticed it before. It is there though. It makes your mouth look shriveled and it pulls the blood out of your lips making them appear thinner. The mouth and lips are actually the point of attachment for muscles throughout the face. Muscles from the nose, cheeks, jaw and chin all anchor into the corners of the mouth. Try pressing your knuckles into your lips and the areas above and below them. The pain isn’t as bad here. If you do it for 5 minutes with a good amount of pressure, your lips will fill with blood. Especially focus on the corners of your mouth. You can also squeeze these areas between your thumb and forefinger placing one on the face and the other inside the mouth. Compression here makes your lips fuller and more healthy looking.
The Jaw
The masseter muscles are the last muscles that I was able to rejuvenate with myofascial release. It is not easy and takes patience. There is a superficial masseter and a deep masseter, focus on both but importantly don’t press too hard. Pressing too hard can be harmful, and can also damage the salivary glands there.
First start lying on your stomach with the backs of your wrists placed at the corner of your jaw between your jaw and your ear. If you place the weight of your head on your two wrists and press inwards you should feel substantial pain. It took me 4 months to completely wipe this pain away. I would start up my diaphragmatic breathing application and wrest my head on the back of my wrists while breathing deeply for 5 minutes, 5 days a week. I had temporomandibular joint pain before I started and it was completely gone at the end of four months.
Next you want to focus on the front of the masseter muscle. Press your fingers and knuckles two inches from the corner of your mouth, directly into the side of the masseter. Compress these muscles and stroke your knuckles past them as if you were plucking a guitar string. The tense bands become soft muscle and your jaw will become more muscular and more defined.
You also want to press in to the crease between your neck and jawline. This is the platysma. I will press my fingers against it while watching TV. The more you press into the painful soft tissues the less painful they will get and the more your “double” chin will disappear and your jawline will improve.
The Chin
Compress the depressor anguli oris, the depressor labii inferioris and the mentalis. All will respond quickly to deep compression. Your chin will look lean and muscular. If you focus on bottom portion of the depressor anguli oris you will get the broad, wide chin that many superheroes are depicted as having. 
Keep At It
You really want to compress every square inch of your face, I am just trying to prioritize my focusing on the areas that I think are the most important psychologically and neurologically. When you have found an area of your face or neck that is tender and sore to gentle pressure, you have uncovered a gold mine. You have found an area that, when rehabilitated, will allow personal and spiritual growth. You may experience decreased chronic pain, improved sleep, release of emotional tension, and better skin tone. It definitely did these things for me and I also feel more confident and more outgoing.
My cat got into a bad habit of showing me with his face how hungry, and desperate for food he was. It had to have been partly my fault. His meows would be accompanied by the most pitiful facial wincing. His eyes would be tight and his whole face would crinkle up. When I saw it, my face would sympathetically do the same thing. It pulled at my heart strings. So here is a species, removed from humans by 85 million years of evolution, that uses very similar facial/neuroendocrine signaling. I started feeding him more regularly, but I also started massaging his face. Before dinner I hold him in my lap and use my thumbs to gently press into his orbits, his cheeks, his nose, and his jaw line. He never makes those faces anymore and people always comment on his poise and beauty. The faces of pets, and probably the faces of infants and young children, are easy to mold and manipulate. Squeezing out the tension in the face of an adult is more painful, but just as much like the pruning of a bonsai.


  1. This is an incredibly beautiful and informative post! I found your article as I was researching brow massage and muscle compression of that area to release tension. The idea of compressing facial muscles occurred to me just after I bought a Fascianator roller for my body. Quite by 'accident' I stumbled upon a stainless pastry roller which I used to roll the face, but I was not impressed much. After reading your article, I am using it beautifully to roll and apply pressure to many different muscles of the face as per your suggestions. It's hard, it's cool, and soothes the muscles as pressure is applied. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I am very inspired!

  2. Hello, I am really happy to have found your blog. Because since a few years I have a very tence eyebrow area, resulting in an permanent angry look. Especially my right eyebrow, the Corrugator Supercilli is pulling mu skin towards my nose. I hate is, ik makes me look sad, angry and stressed and I am a female so I don't want this. I don't own a basketballm so can I use something else instead? Also can I send you an e-mail with some photos so you can see what I mean. I would really appriciate this.

  3. Dr Jared, came across your blog and it's a fantastic read. Great observations and very informative!!Keep on writing please. Thank you!!

  4. Hello-- I'd be very interested to see the diagram of facial muscles you say above is below-- maybe it's slipped off. This is such an interesting piece and I'm finding a lot of relaxation in facial self massage. Thank you.

    1. I would like to see this also!

  5. Great post. Can you post some video or pictures to illustrate exactly where we do this massage?


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  7. Awesome tips for Facial Massage,Its really Working on me Thanks for this useful tips.

  8. Fantastic instant relief

  9. Wow. Just wow. The difference in your face in those second pictures! You look younger and more relaxed. There is clearly more movement in your face, your smile is relaxed and your eyes aren't squinty. I just went through the whole routine and my splitting headache has been relieved. This is my new favorite thing to do. Thank you!

  10. Thanks for this post. I've been doing fascia blasting on my neck and jaw and forehead and this helps me even more