TMJ Pain – What is it and the effectiveness of acupuncture.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint – it attaches the jaw bone to the skull and allows for the jaw to move up and down, side to side, and forward and back. Thus, it’s critical for life-supporting activities such as talking, eating and breathing.
TMJ disorders is characterized by pain in the jaw joint that can involve several other systems in the body. In fact, 85% of TMJ patients report to suffer pain and non-pain conditions such as allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic headache, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, neck and low back pain, and sleep disorders.
Estimates report that anywhere from 10 to 30 million people in the US are affected by TMJ, with the majority tend to be women in their child-bearing years.
Although causes of TMJ can vary, the known causes are:
• autoimmune diseases (in which the body’s immune cells attack healthy tissue)
• injuries to the jaw area
• dental procedures (even prolonged mouth opening)
• insertion of a breathing tube before surgery
• various forms of arthritis
And symptoms can include:
• pain in the jaw muscles
• pain in the neck and shoulders
• chronic headaches
• jaw muscle stiffness
• limited movement or locking of the jaw
• ear pain, pressure, fullness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
• grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
• a bite that feels “off”
• vision problems
A recent study demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture to treat TMJ. Acupuncture was used in conjunction with a warm needle technique to achieve a 93.3% efficacy rate – meaning patients either fully recovered or symptoms improved during the treatment period. Sessions were conducted daily over a 7 day span.
An earlier study looked at comparing acupuncture to drug treatment, namely diclofenac (a NSAID) and glucosamine hydrochloride (a dietary supplement). The study also demonstrated a higher efficacy among the acupuncture group that was sustainable for at least six months after treatment.