Acupuncture Treats TMJ Dysfunction, Pain, and Syndrome

Woman with TMJ dysfunction and pain

Jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can interfere with normal everyday living.

Are you experiencing TMJ pain while eating? Is it disrupting sleep or distracting you a lot at work or home, causing headaches or other symptoms? 

If drugs and other medical therapies have not yet given you enough relief, or are not healing your dysfunction, then try our comprehensive approach – we can help!

At our Edmonton Acupuncture clinic, we can treat your TMJ dysfunction or pain and help you understand and address the structure and function of the issues, and how to become more aware and implement changes that can, as a whole, make the big difference!

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or Dysfunction, known as TMD or TMJD, is a general diagnosis that represents a group of painful and/or dysfunctional conditions involving the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) located just under the ear.

About 10% of the population is affected, and are most likely to be women in their 30s. The main signs and symptoms of TMD include clicking, muscle, soft tissue pain and/or TMJ pain, and abnormal jaw movements.

The TMJ is a special and complex joint.

It can act as a lever, shift side to side, and slide a bit forward and backward. This complexity makes it very useful for eating and talking, but can also make it vulnerable to damage. Causes of TMD include genetic predisposition, physical trauma, diet and chewing behaviours, chronic jaw clenching and/or night time teeth grinding (bruxism).

Common medical treatments of TMD can include mouth guards or splints, drugs (anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxants, antidepressants) injections (e.g. Botox into muscles, steroids into the TMJ), physical therapy, and in more advanced cases, several surgical options.

Acupuncture and our approach treats TMJ function, what’s causing the TMJ syndrome symptoms, not just the pain.

Before TMJ pain manifests as a disorder with observable degenerative joint changes, it often progresses in stages as a complex pattern of signs and symptoms known as TMJ syndrome. TMJ syndrome is more than just TMJ pain, and can include factors as jaw and temple muscle pain or tension, stress-related headaches, neck and upper back tension and posture problems, and even ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or other inner ear issues such as recurring infections or chronically blocked Eustachian tubes.

The holistic approach at our Edmonton acupuncture clinic addresses TMJ dysfunction and pain by understanding and treating related issues and root causes of the problem. This means that treatments, patient education and awareness, and lifestyle changes are all integrated to promote steady progress and better end results. This big picture approach to treating TMJ syndrome is inclusive of and complementary to any medical therapies that you may be receiving.

Your acupuncture assessment and treatment for TMJ dysfunction and pain includes customizations unique to your situation. 

For example, your treatment may include:

1. Acupuncture with or without electro-stimulation on the soft tissues associated with the TMJ and facial/jaw muscles associated with joint function.

2. Infrared (cold) laser therapy at the TMJ.

3. Acupuncture and manual therapies like massage, cupping, and gua sha (spoon technique) for neck and upper back tension and posture correction, including kinesiotaping.

4. Acupuncture points known for the treatment of anxiety, stress reduction, headaches, and relaxation.

5. Patient education and awareness of jaw relaxation, tongue placement, posture improvement. Other factors are addressed including diet, mindfulness and stress management, exercise, self massage and other issues unique for each patient. We have a really good resource on our bookshelves regarding TMD called “The TMJ Healing Plan: Ten Steps to Relieving Headaches, Neck Pain and Jaw Disorders” by Cynthia Peterson, a physiotherapist who specializes in TMD syndromes.

Read Gord’s acupuncture blog on TMJ dysfunction and health

Research shows acupuncture for TMJ pain works

How Many Acupuncture Sessions Do I Need to Treat TMJ dysfunction and pain?

The number of acupuncture sessions needed to see improvement and lasting freedom from pain varies with the individual. Acupuncture works cumulatively, that is, each session builds on the previous one. Generally speaking, a minimum of three treatments is needed in order to create a positive momentum.  

Read FAQs about Acupuncture