Injuries to your jaw, the joint, or the muscles of your head and neck can lead to TMJ. The most common causes are from blunt force actions like whiplash, grinding or clenching your teeth, arthritis in the joint and stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles.
TMJ can cause severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary problem or can become a chronic condition and can affect one or both sides of your face. Women have more occurrences of TMJ and the average affected age group are those between the ages of 20 and 40.
Common symptoms include:
- Tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders
- Pain in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- Jaws that "lock" in the open- or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew.
- A tired feeling in your face
- Trouble chewing like your teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
Acupuncture has proven to be effective at reducing the pain associated with TMJ. It acts by restoring the balanced flow of Qi, or energy, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research has revealed scientific reasons why acupuncture is a successful in TMJ treatment. Studies in Western medical literature suggest that acupuncture reduces pain sensation through direct stimulation of the nerve, which changes the quality of signaling along nerve cells. It was also found that acupuncture directly stimulates the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters. These are naturally occurring reactions that help block pain perception by the brain.
In an acupuncture treatment for TMJ-related problems, needles are inserted in the area of the pain, around the ear and the jaw. Due to the the interconnecting pathways between the meridians, the needles may also be inserted near the elbows, knees, and big toe; these distal locations can alter the flow of Qi flowing through the jaw to relieve pain and inflammation.
Chiropractic treatments for subluxation and neck and upper back massage therapy are also helpful tools used in the treatment of TMJ. The goal is to balance structure and energy, releasing the pain and freeing the patient from the causes of TMJ.