Acupuncture For TMJ: Does It Work?


More and more people are being diagnosed with TMJ these days. This painful condition affects the jaw joints in front of each ear and can make talking, yawning, chewing, and many other essential functions difficult. If you’ve been struggling with jaw popping, clicking, and clenching for a while now, and you’re at your wits end as to what to do about it, it may be time to consider acupuncture for TMJ. But how exactly can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture for TMJ improves blood flow to stiff jaw muscles, encouraging healthy muscle contraction and relaxation. This allows TMJ patients to use their jaws more fluidly, reducing TMJ symptoms and secondary TMJ pain.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. We each have two temporomandibular joints, one in front of each ear where the jaw meets the skull. Although it’s really a misnomer, TMJ has become an umbrella term for more than 30 temporomandibular disorders.

There are three main types of TMJ, including disorders of the muscles used for chewing, disorders of the temporomandibular joints themselves, and the secondary headaches that TMJ often leads to. 

TMJ can be caused by trauma to the temporomandibular joint or joints. Other factors, such as lifestyle, genetics, stress, and even nutrient deficiencies can also play a role. Symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Jaw stiffness 
  • Pain when yawning, chewing, or talking
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Jaw locking
  • Clicking or popping when opening and closing the mouth
  • Jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Misalignment of the bite
  • Pain that spreads from the jaw joints to the face, neck, upper back, and head
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hearing loss

It’s worth noting that TMJ symptoms can appear in one or both joints. It’s also possible to experience certain TMJ symptoms without actually being diagnosed with TMJ. For instance, if you have a misaligned bite and/or popping of the temporomandibular joint(s), that does not necessarily mean you have TMJ, especially if you’re not experiencing any pain. Talk to your doctor about your TMJ symptoms to get a proper diagnosis. 

How can acupuncture for TMJ alleviate your symptoms?

If you’ve been officially diagnosed with TMJ, you may be wondering what you can do to manage your symptoms. Acupuncture is a highly effective treatment option for a variety of painful musculoskeletal ailments, including TMJ, and regular sessions can provide you with long-term relief. But how exactly does acupuncture for TMJ work?

Acupuncture needles work on a microscopic level, creating tiny tears in the muscle fibers which stimulate blood and oxygen flow to the surrounding tissues. That increase in circulation to the needle site can have a profound impact on TMJ disorders, significantly reducing pain and inflammation and promoting proper muscle function. 

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce signs and symptoms of TMJ. Regular acupuncture sessions can help alleviate the myofascial pain associated with TMJ, making it easier for you to talk with your friends, relish your favorite foods, and, well, just enjoy life! And what’s even more amazing is that acupuncture can do all of this 100% naturally. 

Unlike pain medications, which only mask your symptoms, acupuncture for TMJ works with your body, supporting your musculoskeletal system’s ability to heal itself. By encouraging the tense TMJ muscles to relax, and by improving circulation to the joints themselves, acupuncture has allowed many TMJ patients to find drug-free relief from their debilitating symptoms.

How many sessions of acupuncture do you need to treat TMJ?

Exactly how many acupuncture sessions you will need depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your TMJ symptoms come and go, you may only need acupuncture sessions periodically to help you cope with the episodes. But if your pain is more chronic in nature, you’ll likely benefit from ongoing sessions. Your acupuncturist will review your health history to help you determine how often you’ll need treatments to see results

Since stress is a major contributor to TMJ, regular acupuncture sessions have the potential to prevent future episodes. Acupuncture has long been used to support the body’s ability to overcome stress. Because acupuncture encourages the entire body to relax, routine acupuncture appointments can reduce the severity of your TMJ symptoms, especially in the long run. 

Acupuncture is also incredibly helpful for mitigating the secondary symptoms of TMJ. If your TMJ has got you doubled over with back, neck, and shoulder pain, or if your TMJ frequently causes migraines, acupuncture can help you overcome these symptoms by supporting healthy musculoskeletal function. Overall, acupuncture promotes healthy muscle contraction and relaxation, so your jaw muscles don’t tense up and cause a cascade of painful symptoms.

Is acupuncture alone enough to treat TMJ?

For many people, acupuncture is powerful enough to alleviate their TMJ symptoms without having to rely on pain medications. That’s because acupuncture doesn’t just help reduce TMJ pain, but it also helps the TMJ muscles function optimally. By getting to the root of the problem, acupuncture can help treat your TMJ symptoms from the ground up. 

Of course, if your symptoms are severe, or the result of trauma or genetics, then certain lifestyle modifications may be necessary to improve your symptoms as well. Avoiding overuse of the jaw muscles by cutting out chewing gum can be helpful, as can eliminating crunchy foods from your diet. Mouthguards can be used to prevent bruxism, AKA teeth grinding, which can trigger TMJ symptoms. 

If poor posture or a sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor to your TMJ, then corrective exercise programming can help you overcome the musculoskeletal dysfunction that may be contributing to your symptoms. Certain dietary supplements, like magnesium, which helps the muscles relax, can prove to be beneficial, too. 

Meanwhile, soft tissue mobilization and cupping can compound the benefits of routine acupuncture sessions. Using these treatments together can greatly reduce the secondary symptoms of TMJ, so you can finally eliminate your head, neck, shoulder, and back pain

Booking your first appointment

At Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture, we put the power in our patients’ hands, and we’re ready to help you take control of your health. From your first visit, we’ll work with you to get to the bottom of your TMJ symptoms so you can finally overcome them. 
Contact our office to learn more about how acupuncture can change your life for the better. Book your appointment today so you can witness firsthand the healing powers of acupuncture and ditch your TMJ pain for good.

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