The temporalmandibular joint is the joint
connecting the upper and lower jaw. TMJ disorders, commonly just called "TMJ", are used to describe pain or dysfunction in this joint. TMJ typically involves pain and stiffness of the joint. There may also be clicking
or popping noted when chewing or opening the mouth fully, like when one
yawns. Or there may be associated symptoms like headaches, neck stiffness, or even difficulty sleeping. TMJ is linked to stress, teeth grinding, dental problems, and
excessive gum chewing.
Research has shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for TMJ. A 2009 article published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
(Vol 15, no. 12,
2009) reported muscle activity in the jaw was reduced at rest, during jaw protrusion, and while clenching following acupuncture treatment. In addition, patients were able to bite down
harder without pain. Overall, the authors concluded that acupuncture led to a
remission in their patients symptoms.
Another recent article published in 2010 in The Clinical Journal of Pain,
(July/Aug 2010 vol. 26 Issue 6) also concluded that acupuncture is
effective in reducing pain in patients with TMJ. In this meta-analysis of four previously performed studies, acupuncture
was found to reduce pain, improve chewing function, and increase the maximal
opening of the mouth. The authors concluded that acupuncture works and is more effective than placebo in reducing TMJ pain intensity.
So, how does acupuncture reduce TMJ symptoms? Traditional Chinese medical theories suggest that acupuncture works by opening
blocked channels in the body and restoring a balanced flow of energy. Therefore, by activating points associated with the temperomandibular joint and its surrounding muscles, blockages in these areas are opened and pain and stiffness are relieved.
Western research suggests one of the ways acupuncture may decrease
pain is by altering the pain signals. In addition, acupuncture increases the release of endorphins,
which are the body’s natural painkillers. The release of endorphins, along with
neurotransmitters like serotonin, reduces the perception of pain by the
Although we do not know precisely how acupuncture reduces pain,
clinical evidence confirms that it is a safe, effective treatment
option for TMJ. If you are struggling with TMJ symptoms, please give us a call today to schedule an initial evaluation and acupuncture treatment - 781-898-4083.