Acupuncture Can Help Relieve the Pain of TMJ and Even Correct the Condition
Vol 15 Issue 89
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joints, the joints that connect the jawbone to the skull. The acronym also describes a condition in which these joints stop functioning properly, causing a variety of painful, uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Treatment usually involves mouth guards, also known as dental splints, bite therapy, and jaw exercises. However, two studies also indicate that Acupuncture can relieve the pain and correct the condition.
TMJ is always accompanied by muscle spasm, but it can also cause clicking or popping of the jaw joints, pain around the joints, a jaw that locks or won’t fully open, difficulty chewing and biting, and clenching or grinding of the teeth. These problems can also result in headaches, pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and neck and shoulder pain. The grinding and clenching can also crack the teeth or wear them down.
In the first study, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that muscle activity in the area was reduced considerably after Acupuncture treatment. Participants were also able to bite harder, and without pain. The muscle activity was measured by Electromyography (EMG), a graphical tracing of the electrical activity in a muscle at rest or during contraction. Authors of the study concluded that “Acupuncture promoted alterations in the EMG activity of masticatory muscles, increased maximal molar bite force, and led to remission of the subjects’ painful symptomatology.”
The second study, actually a review of four earlier studies, showed that Acupuncture reduces TMJ pain, improves chewing function and increases the maximal opening of the mouth. The authors concluded that “Acupuncture is more effective than placebo in reducing pain intensity.”
According to the National Institute of Dental and Cranialfacial Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that more than 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from TMJ. Mild cases of TMJ can sometimes be corrected in a week or two, but severe cases can take months and even require surgery. Acupuncture may be an effective, painless and less invasive alternative.
Sources: Pub Med, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958104; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20551730; National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/TMJ/TMJDisorders.htm