For those of you who have experienced TMJ dysfunction, you how limited you can feel when your jaw is continually hurting, and your ability to open your mouth is impaired.
Our jaw works like a modified hinge, which allows us to speak as well as chew food. In order to accomplish all these movements, our jaw must also move from side to side as well as glide forward and back. When it becomes inflamed, it can lead to TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
TMJ can cause a lot of issues for people. TMJ can make eating, speaking, and sleeping a pain (literally). Many times, treatment involves taking pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications long term, as well as splinting the jaw. However, in most cases, this never fully corrects the underlying issue.
Causes of TMJ
In conventional medicine, many times, the reason for TMJ is unknown. Sometimes arthritis or trauma is blamed for TMJ, and other times grinding your teeth at night or clenching your jaw is suspected.
TMJ can flare during times of stress or in response to other triggers as well as become chronic where pain and symptoms are continuous.
Since the cause of TMJ is, for the most part, unknown, it can be a challenge to treat effectively in conventional medicine.
Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain in the jaw
- Pain with chewing
- Popping or locking of the jaw
- Inability to open your mouth fully
- Tension in the jaw
Acupuncture for TMJ
In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine, we look at TMJ and its underlying cause a bit differently. The tension within the jaw can be looked at in a few ways. One way is by its location on the body. The jaw is located in the stomach meridian. This means that an imbalance within the stomach meridian can be a factor in developing TMJ.
An out of balance stomach meridian can cause symptoms such as:
- Changes in appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Feeling full and bloated after eating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain or heartburn
- Constant worry and stress
- Heartburn and GERD
- Stomach ulcers
When this is the case, using acupuncture along the stomach meridian points, which are directly on the jaw as well as other points that support digestive function, including the stomach, as well as any associated emotions can help resolve TMJ. In this case, you can see the TMJ us a symptom of something much greater.
Treating the whole person, and looking at where symptoms are originating from is the foundation of Naturopathic Medicine and Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture.
TMJ can also be looked at as an issue within the muscles and joints themselves. However, it is a bit more complex than it may seem. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the muscles and connective tissue must be nourished by the blood and yin. The blood and yin represent hydration, blood flow, moisture, and nourishment. Read more about yin and yang in this blog.
Blood and yin can be damaged by environmental, physical, and emotional factors. For instance, anxiety, stress, hot temperatures, overwork, poor diet choices, and over-doing it are some common ways we deplete yin and blood.
Each meridian in the body can be affected by a yin deficiency and will cause different symptoms. However, there are some general symptoms that are caused by blood and yin deficiency.
Symptoms of blood and yin deficiency can include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Feeling warm
- Aching bones
- Brittle hair or nails
- Mood changes
- Poor memory
When this is the case, lifestyle changes are vital for resolving TMJ. Acupuncture helps nourish both blood and yin as well as reducing stress and improving digestion. Herbal remedies and food as medicine are also helpful in these cases.
What to Expect from Acupuncture
Acupuncture therapy is a very relaxing experience. The session is about 45 minutes long and involves a thorough intake of all your symptoms and a physical exam. In Chinese medicine, your physical appearance is essential in determining what is going on deeper within the body. The body never lies. Your Naturopathic Doctor will look at your tongue, skin, face, nails, as well as feel your pulses to gain insight into the root cause of your symptoms.
Once the doctor has assessed your condition, he or she will create an individualized acupuncture protocol, which may also include moxa, cupping, gua sha, as well as acupressure massage.
How Many Acupuncture Sessions Do I Need?
Most people experience relief after their first few sessions. In most cases, people require 4-8 sessions in total spaced 4-7 days apart. It is important to schedule your sessions close together and regularly to ensure you get the most benefit from your acupuncture session.
Acupuncture for TMJ is a safe and effective therapy with no downtime or side effects. People love the way they feel after acupuncture and using therapies that work with their bodies and treat the underlying cause.