Acupuncture is Effective in Treating TMJ Disorders

What are TMJ Disorders?

The temporalmandibular joint is the term used for the joint connecting the upper and lower jaw.  Disorders affecting this area — commonly referred to as TMJ —  refer to pain or dysfunction in this joint.

TMJ is usually associated with pain and stiffness. There may also be clicking or popping noted when chewing or opening the mouth fully, like when one yawns. TMJ is linked to stress, teeth grinding, dental problems and excessive gum chewing.

Treating TMJ

There are many effective treatments for TMJ including acupuncture. Scientific research supports acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for TMJ.

Recent studies have reported that following acupuncture, patients had measurably less problem muscle activity. Muscle activity measured by EMG was reduced at rest, protrusion, and clenching. S. Rancan D.D.S. M.D.S. et al., authors of Acupuncture and TMJ Disorders: A 3 month follow up EMG study, published their findings in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (Vol 15, number12, 2009). In addition an increased bite force was measured. Patients were able to bite down harder without pain) They further concluded that acupuncture led to a remission in their patients symptoms.

Another recent article published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, (July/Aug 2010 vol26 Issue6) also concluded that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain in patients with TMJ. In this article, Acupuncture in the Treatment of Pain in Temporomandibular Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta -Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies, the authors analyzed 4 studies. The studies showed that acupuncture reduces pain, improves chewing function, and increases the maximal opening of the mouth. They concluded that acupuncture works and that:

“Acupuncture is more effective than placebo in reducing pain intensity.”

How does acupuncture reduce pain in patients with TMJ?

Ancient Chinese theories suggest that acupuncture works by opening blocked channels in the body and restoring a balanced flow of energy.

Western research suggests one of the ways acupuncture may decrease pain is by altering the pain signals. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific sights it is felt that they may alter the pain signal by directly stimulating nerves altering the signaling along nerve cells. In addition acupuncture increases the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. The release of endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin reduce the perception of pain by the brain.

Although we do not know precisely how acupuncture reduces pain, scientific research confirms that it is a safe, and effective treatment option. Furthermore research also shows that the benefits derived from acupuncture are not a placebo effect.

The bottom line is that works!

Acupuncture is a safe and effective in treating many painful conditions including TMJ.

About the Author:  Dr. Betty Keller specializes in treatment of chronic pain including TMJ.  She provides acupuncture therapy, integrated with conventional medical therapy at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.