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Does Acupuncture Work for TMJ?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If you've recently been experiencing pain in your jaw and a friend has brought up trying acupuncture, you may be pretty skeptical. We don't blame you! While acupuncture is a growing pain treatment trend in the U.S., it's not as widely practiced in the West as it is in Asian countries. The first thing that may come to your mind is a vision of dozens of needles painfully stuck in your body. But if you're experiencing facial pain associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), this may be a new experience you want to try. Let's go over what acupuncture is, how it relates to relieving jaw pain, as well as other potential treatments that can bring you relief.

According to a study published in Medicine, this traditional Chinese practice may help people with various ailments. Even with scientific validity, you probably have some questions: How exactly does acupuncture work. Can acupuncture for jaw pain provide relief?

What Is Acupuncture?

From anxiety to menstrual cramping, headaches to back pain, acupuncture treatments offer relief for a wide variety of ailments.

Dental pain, either from a recurring condition or discomfort after a dental procedure, is a common reason people seek relief from acupuncture. A licensed professional will insert a needle at various points in the body to stimulate the nervous system, muscles, and connective tissue, sparking the body's natural painkilling abilities. A licensed acupuncturist uses multiple evaluation tools and places sterile needles in specific locations on the body, or acupoints, to reduce pain and treat TMD.

The National Institutes of Health report that acupuncture has few reported complications when a licensed medical professional performs it correctly. Along with your medical professional, a licensed acupuncture professional can determine the proper length and amount of acupuncture sessions you should receive.

Acupuncture for TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) occurs when the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull experiences pain and fatigue. Known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), its pain can spread to the fascia, which is the connective tissue covering the muscles. You may even notice the pain spreading to your neck and shoulders. While people have used this technique for thousands of years, there's modern science to back up its popularity. The study published in Medicine concluded that TMJ acupuncture therapy is effective in relieving pain.

Acupoints for Facial Pain

Facial pain is a common ailment that can arise not just from your jaw. The journal Pain Medicine defines acupoints as specific sites on the body, either on the surface or below the skin, containing a high nerve endings density. There are particular acupoints to focus on, which can help minimize pain in different parts of the body. Did you know that you can target specific pain in the mouth, jaw, and face? Acupoints for facial pain include:

  • Hand
  • Earlobe
  • Foot
  • Above the hyoid bone, located in the neck

Other Treatments for TMD

Acupuncture and acupressure are not the only treatments for TMJ pain. Physical therapy, pain relievers, mouth guards, and anti-inflammatory prescription medications are widely practiced treatments that may help manage TMD symptoms. Some people would prefer to try a natural approach to pain relief before prescription medication. It would help if you spoke with both your dental and medical professionals about these treatment options to put together a plan that feels right for you.

Maintaining this coordination between your trusted dental professional and your medical provider is critical to treating TMD and finding relief from your symptoms. If you want to learn more about starting acupuncture for TMJ pain or any other alternative treatment options, asking about it is the first step. Traditional Chinese medicine may be new for you, and that's OK! We know that bringing up new concepts to your healthcare professional may sound intimidating. Still, we believe that the more open dialogue around your dental pain, the faster you'll find relief!


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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