Acupuncture is Backed Up By Research as a Way to Effectively Treat TMJ Pain

When you think of joint pain, your mind may first go to your knees, hips, shoulders, hands or feet. However, there’s a joint condition related to your jaw that can be the source of pain and accompanying symptoms—it’s called temporal mandibular joint pain.

Your temporal mandibular joint, or TMJ, is a large word to describe the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. It’s located on each side of your head in front of your ears, and opens and closes when you chew, talk, laugh and yawn. Unfortunately, this joint can cause pain and a variety of other symptoms, aptly called Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

Your TMJ can become aggravated and painful for a number of reasons. Trauma, arthritis, misalignment of your bite (how your teeth fit together), disc problems within the joint and clenching or grinding your teeth are common causes. In addition, because there are a wide variety of underlying causes for TMD, the symptoms associated with it are also varied. They may include:

  • Tender or painful muscles in your face or jaw
  • Pain in the actual joint or around your ears
  • Chronic headaches
  • Noises, such as popping or clicking when you open and close your mouth
  • Limited ability to open or close your mouth completely
  • Locking of the joint, in which you’re unable to open or close your mouth

These symptoms can be aggravated by stress, which can cause you to unknowingly grind or clench your teeth, a condition called bruxism. Stress also causes your muscles to become tense, including those in your neck, upper back and jaw—all of which can affect your temporal mandibular joint. In addition, what you eat can have an impact on your TMD symptoms. For example, eating dense, chewy or thick foods that cause you to open your mouth wide can stress the joint and aggravate your pain. 

Help for Temporal Mandibular Joint Pain

Often the first line of conventional treatment for TMD is a splint to realign the joint or a night mouth guard to prevent bruxism. Your doctor or dentist may also prescribe pain medications and advise you to avoid foods that aggravate your symptoms. 

Many people seek out acupuncture to relieve their TMD symptoms, which can be a good idea and is backed up by research as a way to effectively treat head and facial pain. While acupuncture can’t change the structure of your jaw or realign your bite, it can be effective in relieving TMD pain, reducing inflammation and relaxing tense and tight muscles.  Acupuncture can also alleviate muscle spasms associated with TMD and reduce the clicking or popping noises in the joint by reducing tension in the muscles in front of your ear and at the corner of your jaw. This also helps alleviate some of the force placing stress on the joint.

And no discussion of TMD and acupuncture is complete without talking about the role acupuncture has in reducing stress. Stress is strongly associated with tooth clenching and grinding. In many cases, people who grind their teeth do so at night while they’re asleep and unaware that it’s happening. A sign of night bruxism is waking up with sore teeth, facial or neck muscles or a dull headache. The role of acupuncture in successfully treating stress and stress-related symptoms is well-known in both the research and clinical settings. One of the effects of acupuncture is to increase the circulation of feel-good and calming neurotransmitters in your brain that helps to reduce the body’s fight or flight response and rebalance its stress hormones.

If you suffer from temporal mandibular pain, there are a few things you can do and some to avoid to help manage your symptoms. They include:

  • Massage the muscles at the corner of your lower jaw in a downward motion to pull your lower jaw downward and relieve muscle tightness and stress on the joint.
  • Check your posture. The muscles in your upper back, neck and jaw are all connected. Good posture may help relieve some of the tightness and pain associated with your TM joint.
  • Soothe TMD pain with heat. A warm compress on the joint can increase circulation locally and help loosen tight muscles, both of which can help reduce pain.
  • Avoid chewing gum; it tires the joint out and can aggravate your pain.
  • Avoid nail biting for the same reasons. 
  • Do what it takes to relieve stress when it arises. It can help relieve some of the tightness in your muscles and decrease tooth grinding and clenching.

People who suffer from temporal mandibular joint pain will tell you it can be frustrating. The condition can often present with symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to your jaw. This can make it hard to diagnose TMJ problems. In addition, because you use your temporal mandibular joint hundreds or thousands of times a day when you talk and eat, it’s next to impossible to rest the joint completely to let it heal. The good news is that there’s help for your pain, headaches, popping and tooth clenching in the form of acupuncture. If you have TMJ problems and want more information about safe and natural treatments, contact our clinic today. 


Acupuncture is Backed Up By Research as a Way to Effectively Treat TMJ Pain
Article Name
Acupuncture is Backed Up By Research as a Way to Effectively Treat TMJ Pain
This article discusses facts about TMJ and how acupuncture can help relieve the pain.
Publisher Name
Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC
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