Acupuncture and Temporomandibular Pain
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone with the temporal bone of your skull. The TMJ is an important joint as it allows for the movements in your jaw that is necessary for speaking, chewing, swallowing, and yawning. Pain and stiffness in the joint can contribute to a range of functional problems that fall under the category of temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Indeed, if you experience soreness around your ear or jaw joint, tenderness or pain in the muscles of your jaw or face, difficulty opening or closing your mouth, or sounds such as clicking, popping, or grinding emanating from your TMJ, you are likely exhibiting signs of TMDs.
Because TMDs are associated with functional problems such as difficulty eating or speaking as well as neck pain and headaches, effective treatment is incredibly important – not only for engaging in many basic activities of living, but also for overall quality of life. The TMJ is a complex joint that allows you to move your jaw in several directions which is probably why it is susceptible to injury. As many as 1 in 10 people may suffer from a disorder of this joint at one time in their life and chronic conditions of the joint are common too. And as complex as the TMJ may be, so are the conditions affecting it. Fortunately, acupuncture may help.
Consulting with a qualified acupuncturist is a great first step in managing disorders of the TMJ. Recent research has shown that acupuncture is a clinically effective treatment for TMDs. According to traditional Chinese medicine specialists, acupuncture helps to restore energetic balance in the body which is often explained from a Western medical perspective as resulting from stimulating the nervous and circulatory systems. Additionally, acupuncture may stimulate the release of the body’s natural analgesics – endorphins. The release of endorphins therefore help to suppress pain and thereby alleviate many of the symptoms associated with TMDs.
While many people will experience immediate reduction in the symptoms of TMDs from acupuncture, current best practice recommend regular treatments – usually weekly treatments of 30 minutes. Still, your acupuncturist will discuss your treatment goals and recommend a plan specific to your symptoms and needs. You may expect needles to be inserted into painful areas around the jaw and temporal region of your skull, but also may include treatment in other areas.
It is also useful to integrate acupuncture treatment with other modalities. While acupuncture is effective for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of TMDs, it may not address underlying factors that may be causing the disorder. For example, degenerative or orthopedic anomalies in your spine or jaw may require other medical intervention. As such, combining acupuncture with other treatments may be required to achieve the best results.
If you’d like to learn more about acupuncture for TMDs, contact Lonsdale Wellness to consult with one of our highly trained and provincially registered acupuncturists.