Natural Treatments for Jaw Pain


What is TMD/TMJ?

Do you have jaw pain or stiffness?  Does your jaw make popping sounds when you open your mouth?  You may have TMD (tempero-mandibular joint disorder), also known as TMJ, which refers to a variety of disorders or symptoms affecting the region around the tempero-mandibular joints which connect the lower jaw to the skull.  Symptoms of TMD range in number and severity and include jaw pain or stiffness; inability to fully open the mouth; popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth; head, neck or shoulder tension; headaches; earaches; toothaches and other types of facial pain.

What Causes TMD/TMJ?

TMD can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, injury, an improper bite, arthritis, or a combination of factors. For example, stress might cause you to grind or clench your teeth during the day or at night while you sleep. This can tire and constrict the jaw muscles and cause pain, and may eventually lead to problems with the joint capsule itself. Whiplash or other trauma can strain the muscles and ligaments in the neck and face. Poor posture, lack of sleep, inability to relax and poor diet may also aggravate TMD symptoms. The contracted muscles and pinched nerves that result from these stresses can refer pain to other areas, causing headaches, earaches or toothaches.

How can Acupuncture Help?

Dental appliances, pain medication, lifestyle changes and occasionally surgery are the common methods of treatment for TMD. Acupuncture offers a wonderful alternative. It relaxes both body and mind and relieves pain without the side effects of medications. It is relatively non-invasive and relatively inexpensive, compared to other therapies. It also benefits overall health and well-being. Within 6-8 weekly treatments, the patient’s pain is generally reduced, range of motion of the jaw is generally increased and the need for pain medication is generally diminished or non-existent.

To treat TMD problems, acupuncturists insert needles around the jaw, neck and shoulders and often employ distal points in the arms, hands, legs and feet to further enhance the treatment. Such treatments help to release constricted muscles and restore proper circulation to the affected areas. Acupuncture also releases endorphins and most patients feel very calm and relaxed during and after an acupuncture treatment. Sometimes an herbal formula will be prescribed if the acupuncturist feels it will enhance the healing process.

So consider acupuncture to treat your TMD. It can help relieve your pain, relax your stress, decrease your need for pain medications and improve your overall health and well-being.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.