Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) with Acupuncture

Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) with Acupuncture
What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD)?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) is a common joint disorder causing pain and stiffness in the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint is different from the body’s other joints acting as a hinge on each side of the face connecting the jawbone to the skull. When this joint is not working properly it can cause severe discomfort and can be a tremendous challenge to do even the slightest movements such as talking, eating and yawning.

Causes of TMJD:

While there is no definite cause for TMJD, there are a few easily discernible reasons:

  • Injury to the jaw, temporomandubular joint, or muscles of the head and neck.
  • Bruxism (grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw)
  • Tightening of facial and jaw muscles due to stress.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of TMJD:

The common symptoms of TMJD include:

  • Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck.
  • Jaw muscle stiffness, limiting movement or locking of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth.
  • Clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (may or may not be painful)
  • Trouble chewing or having a sudden uncomfortable bite.You may also experience toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, buzzing or blocked sensations in the ear.
What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that originated in China over 3,000 years ago. According to traditional Chinese medicine, it was discovered that the body not only has a physical aspect but it also has an energetic aspect as well — A vital energy called Chi (also known as Qi) flows through specific channels in the body referred to as the Meridians. Each Meridian channel is associated with a different organ and region in the body. When this Chi energy flow is blocked it can cause imbalance and disease to develop.

Acupuncturists insert needles (hair-like, fine, and sterile…no need to fear!) in specific acupuncture points along the meridian lines and the blockages become unblocked and balanced. This restores the body’s Chi so that it begins to flow properly. Sometimes during an acupuncture treatment there will be an electric sensation which lasts for only a moment. This sensations is called Da Qi — meaning the opening up of blockages.

Acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins influencing the release of neurotransmitters (substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain). Acupuncture also has been found to influence the autonomic nervous system to stimulate circulation, and influence the electrical currents of the body. Acupuncture is one of the best known of the alternative therapies. Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and drug-free therapy that has been used traditionally to prevent, diagnose, and treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases, as well as to improve general health and reduce stress.

Why use Acupuncture to treat TMJD?

In August of 2015, i was diagnosed with TMJD after an assault injury. When on the search to find an alternative way to heal my TMJD, I came across acupuncture. While there are a variety of techniques and treatments for TMJD, such as taking pharmaceuticals that only provide temporary relief or wearing a splint/mouth guard, acupuncture is shown to be the most effective long-term alternative therapy for treating my TMJD.

  • A 2007 study shows a 75% reduction in muscle pain caused by TMJD, in 85% of patients being treated.
  • in 2008, scientist found that the majority of TMJD patients who had received acupuncture experienced long-term improvements of their TMJD symptoms lasting as long as 20 years.
How can Acupuncture help TMJD?

When treating TMJD there are several different ways acupuncture can help:

Local/Structural treatment:
Local treatment is a direct healing approach aimed at the tension, inflammation, and misalignment in the joint itself.Local points can relieve muscle spasm and decrease pain and swelling. With TMJD this allows the jaw to move more freely and to align itself naturally so that the joint works smoothly.

Channel treatment:
Channel treatment targets the root cause of the condition by balancing the mind and body through the meridians, helping to reset the neuromuscular tension in the jaw. Acupuncture therapy unblocks the Chi flow and directs the energy to the areas in need.

Addressing stress and tension:
Clenching your jaw when stressed, frustrated, or angry is a natural human response. This leaves your jaw feeling stiff resulting in a constant discomfort. Acupuncture can bring relief to not only the muscles but the mind as well. This is when the magic begins! Acupuncture can help to both relax the tense muscles and decrease the overall stress level in the body.