Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is widely prevalent in the general population; some reports estimate its prevalence ranges from 9 to 85%. Among the different locations where MPS may arise, pain related to the masseter muscle is referred as masticatory myofascial pain. MPS is characterized by myofascial trigger points (MTPs), which represent tender anatomical areas of a muscle where painful symptoms are elicited whenever stimulated. Previous publications have found MTPs to coincide with neuromuscular junctions at the motor end plate, at the innervation zone (IZ). Our study aimed to describe the innervation of the masseter muscle and relate it to clinically described myofascial trigger points (MTPs).
We mapped the nerve fiber distribution into the masseter muscles from 16 cadavers by anatomical dissection. We divided the muscle into six regions, three superior (I–III) and three inferior (IV–VI), and classified the nerve’s branches distribution according to these predetermined areas. Statistical analyses was made by Poisson distribution and logarithm link function followed by Bonferroni multiple comparisons ( P<0.05).
All six areas received branches from the masseteric nerve. Areas I and II (upper posterior and upper intermediate, respectively) had a significant higher number of nerve entries as compared to the remaining areas.
The penetration areas of the masseteric nerve have been established and MTPs are found in the innervation zones, clinicians should focus initially on the regions of the penetration points, for diagnostics and therapeutic measures, such as injections, dry needling and soft tissue interventions. Anatomical study of nerve supply to the masseter muscle can provide useful additional knowledge to further understanding masticatory myofascial pain and to direct therapeutic interventions and diagnostic studies of temporomandibular junction dysfunction.