Temporomandibular joint pain – better known as TMJ syndrome is a common cause of tension headaches, neck pain, facial muscular pain, local jaw pain and tightness and in some cases, ear pain. TMJ is usually caused by slight structural dysfunction and an imbalance in movement when opening and closing the jaw. Many people look to over the counter NSAIDs for relief and in some cases physical therapy can be used to help reduce symptoms. Muscle relaxers are often prescribed if there is spasming occurring in the neck muscles.
We see a number of patients seeking relief of neck pain combined with jaw pain and are typically able to see significant results after just one treatment. One of our patients suffered from jaw and neck pain and tightness for over a year who had tried other modalities such as chiropractic care and physical therapy, that only helped to a small degree then she began to see her pain symptoms plateau. This patient was experiencing pain in her neck as well as the left side of her face radiating to the eyebrow. The patient reported that she felt pain when opening and closing her jaw. After just one treatment the patient reported that her intensity of jaw pain had decreased by 80%. Her neck pain and tightness had almost diminished completely and the area of the jaw pain had localized and become significantly smaller in size. After each treatment the pain had localized more and she no longer experienced pain with opening the jaw and only when chewing certain tough foods. This patient’s needles were placed locally in the neck and face (which is not as scary as it sounds!) And for some treatments electroacupuncture was applied.
Acupuncture is very effective in treating TMJ. Acupuncture mechanically relaxes contracted muscles that are causing tension and displacement in the jaw that is resulting in discomfort when opening and closing the joint. By physically causing these contracted muscles to relax with the intervention of the acupuncture needle we are able to make structural changes that help movement of the jaw- these results are seen almost immediately. Neurochemically acupuncture can also stimulate a nervous system response to help kill pain.
Anna Craddock, Student of Acupuncture