The jawbone in the human body is connected to our skull through a joint called the Temporomandibular Joint. Each side of our mouth has a separate joint. When we open our mouths, these joints open and close like the hinge of a door. Abnormalities in one or both of these joints could cause pain and discomfort when in use. This pain is referred to as TMJ by practitioners.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), practitioners evaluate and treat your whole body along with your mind and soul. Stress, trauma, and outside forces can impact the functions within our body by altering the flow of QI or energy. When our energy becomes stagnant or stuck in an area, we may experience symptoms all along that meridian line. To resolve the issue, the flow of energy must be reopened.
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Experiencing pain in your jaw area makes even the simplest functions of everyday life challenging. Our jaws move each time we speak, eat, or yawn. These movements happen hundreds of times, starting when we wake up. Pain in this area is likely a sign of an issue with the Temporomandibular Joint, otherwise known as TMJ.
The pain you experience from TMJ is believed to be connected to the stomach meridian, as this line runs directly through the jaw. To allow the QI to flow freely, acupuncture will be administered to points along this line. Any additional physical concerns, such as neck and shoulder pain, may be addressed with massage therapy.
There are many reasons why a person may begin to experience pain in the TMJ space. An injury may have occurred to the face, and this pain may occur as the injury heals. Arthritis may develop in the region as you age. Your genetic disposition may also be a factor in the occurrence of TMJ pain. Some people also grind their teeth or clench their jaws; this could lead to the beginning of TMJ. Dental x-rays, MRIs, or another imaging test may be ordered to determine any structural causes of your TMJ pain.
Sometimes, resting the jaw for a short time may allow it to resolve without intervention. Conservative treatments such as medications, therapies, and devices may be recommended if it does not heal on their own.
Medications – Over-the-counter or prescription-strength medications such as NSAIDs or Ibuprofen could be used to decrease any inflammation in the joint and relieve pain by reducing it. Tylenol may be prescribed to block the pain receptors from forming and limit pain sensation.
Therapy and splints – The jaw comprises muscles that can be stretched and strengthened like other body parts. A physical therapist could ease the symptoms of TMJ by administering exercises that focus on the jaw along with heat or ice. For those that grind their teeth or clench their jaw, mouthguards may help alleviate the pain.
Surgeries/Injections – If conservative treatments are ineffective, steroid injections or surgical interventions may be recommended.
Pain from TMJ can become unbearable. This constant state of pain creates added stress throughout the entire body. Working with a trained and experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, like those at the EBOM clinic, will allow you to heal so you can return to a pain-free lifestyle.
Medications can be harmful to our bodies. While you may experience temporary relief from pain, the long-term impact on the stomach and liver may be irreversible. These side effects drive patients and their providers to use other methods, such as acupuncture, as part of a conservative treatment plan. The outcomes of acupuncture treatment are well documented as per the studies below.
Acupuncture Treatments and TMJ Pain Relief – Sixty patients were randomly assigned to three treatment groups. Group BA was treated with acupuncture. Group EA received electroacupuncture. Group CA had acupuncture along with cupping. At the end of the study, each group showed significant improvement in their pain levels. The EA group also showed improvement in mood and sleep quality.
Pain and Oral Function After Acupuncture – During a period of 10 weeks, 16 people with TMJ symptoms longer than six months were broken into two groups. The first group was given acupuncture, and the second group was assigned sham, or fake, acupuncture. At the end of the study, the pain was less for those who received acupuncture. Oral function remained the same for both groups.
Decompression Splints and Acupuncture – Twenty patients diagnosed with TMJ were treated with acupuncture and decompression splints for thirty days. Patients were evaluated before and after the study. The results showed that both treatments were effective in reducing pain. Those receiving acupuncture had an improved range of motion in the jaw than those that did not.
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