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Yes, there are muscles in your head!
Muscles of the head? We don’t often think of them, yet we know (if we do stop and think about them) that there have to be muscles there. But the names do not roll off our tongue like hamstrings and quads, biceps and abs.
These muscles are most easily identified by how they function; included in this diagram are also two muscles of the neck.
Names of the Muscles
The muscles in the diagram above assist us in the following movements (start on the left at the top):
- Temporalis, a large muscle located at the temple and reaches to the lower jaw bone, assists in chewing.
- Masseter is a very important chewing muscle.
- Buccinator flattens cheek, helps you whistle, and is considered a chewing muscle.
- Trapezius is large triangular-shaped muscle which extends from the middle of the spine all the way to the back of the head, and out to the shoulder on both sides. It supports the weight of the arm, and also retracts, medially rotates, and depresses the scapulae.
And now, on the right, from top to bottom:
- Frontalis lets you wrinkle your forehead and raise your eyebrows. When you can’t read something or the light is too bright, it helps you to squint! And when your teenager comes home three hours late, it helps you make a very ferocious frown.
- Orbicularis Oculi helps you to close your eyes, blink, and wink. Without this muscle functioning, the eyes cannot close.
- Zygomaticus raises the corner of the mouth. Yes, it helps you smile! 2
- Orbicularis Oris helps you to close your mouth and pucker your lip (yes, when kissing). It is an important muscle for playing all brass and some woodwind instruments.
- Sternocleidomastoid, found on each side of the neck, will help you turn your head to the left or right. It flexes the lower cervical column, causing an overall bending of the neck towards the chest. If the head is fixed, it elevates the sternum and clavicle and, thus, expands the thoracic cavity (inspiratory breathing muscle).
Exercising the Head Muscles
Exercising facial muscles has been done for hundreds of years, including in yoga and needle therapies. All seem to have one goal: retaining a youthful look.
There is no doubt that just smiling can be good for you, both physically and emotionally.
Are there other benefits to facial exercises? There may be some: general strengthening, more blood flow, possibly softer and more resilient skin. There is little research to prove that it prevents wrinkles or makes you look younger.
There are many simple exercises which are said to help strengthen these muscles. (You will find websites that claim exercises can, for example, prevent wrinkles.) Like any muscle, there seems to be some merit to slow, deliberate usage, actions such as rotation of the head, lifting shoulders and eyebrows, opening the jaw and moving it in all directions.
Massaging the muscles of your face may relieve headaches as well. We don’t usually think about exercising these muscles except when they are lost to us, for example, after a stroke.
Research is limited but there is some evidence to suggest that facial muscles can and should be exercised as with all muscles.
Articles about other muscles:
- The Abdominals
- The Adductors
- Common Injuries of the Shoulder and Knee
- The Deltoids
- The Erector Spinae: Spine Muscles
- The Forearm, Elbow, and Wrist
- The Glutes
- The Hamstrings: Back of the Thigh
- The Hip Flexors
- Latissimus Dorsi: The Lats
- The Lower Leg: The Calf and the Shin
- Muscle Cramps and Other Injuries
- The Muscular System: How it Works
- Opposing Muscles
- Pectoralis Major and Minor: The Pecs
- The Quadriceps: The Front of the Thigh
- Taking Care of your Feet
- The Trapezius and the Rhomboids
- The Upper Arm: The Biceps and the Triceps
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.