Temporomandibular joint disorders are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction within the jaw joint and muscles that manage jaw movement, this group is simply referred as TMJ. Acupuncture for TMJ is effective, simple and easy, learn what simple exercises you can perform at home to get relief and, if you want to restore your health completely, what acupuncture points you can stimulate with a professional acupuncturist or doing it yourself.
- Introduction & Summary
- How to Treat TMJ with Acupuncture
- Study Proves Effectiveness of Acupuncture for TMJ
- Causes of TMJ & Treatment Advice
- Instructional Video Physiotherapy Exercises for TMJ
- Video Testimonial of Acupuncture TMJ Pain Relief
- Advantages of Acupuncture Therapy
- Why It Works
- Acupuncture for TMJ Instructions & Point List
- Table & Slides with Acupuncture Points
Introduction: Exercises & Acupuncture for TMJ
TMJ happens because some root cause inflame or misalign the sub-maxilar joints, causing pain within the joint similarly as in the nearby muscles. These joints join the jawbone to the skull so any inflammation makes mastication very hard and painful. Among the most common symptoms are clicking and locking of the joint, additional symptoms are headache and pain around the mandibular joints, etc.
Among the treatments there are physical therapy exercises, medication, prosthetics such as bite guards. Also researchers publish studies which prove how acupuncture for TMJ is very effective and without side-effects. The next information will help you trust this therapy as a valid way to re-balance the functionality of your mandibular joints and have a lasting restoration of your health and elimination of the pain. I will also share the causes and how you should detect and treat them, through simple exercises, together with your acupuncture to have a lasting effect.
How to Treat TMJ with Acupuncture
Short read 7 minutes.
Below is a summary on how to complement your physiotherapy and traditional TMJ treatment with acupuncture to reduce pain and restore jaw mobility.
- Search for online research papers that study “acupuncture for TMJ”.
Look for the acupuncture points used, note the success rate, if the study has a control group, how many sessions patients received, etc.
- These are most of the acupuncture points that are proved reliable and used in several studies.
EX NH3, BL2 – Cuanzhu, GB14 – Yangbai, all in the front of the head, ST6 – Jiache, ST7 – Xiaguan, both in the jaw, GB20 – Fengchi, in the Nape, SI19 – Tinggong, in the ears, LI4 – Hegu, in the hands, ST36 – Zusanli, GB34 – Yanglingquan, both in the knees, KI3 – Taixi, in the ankles, LR3 – Taichong, ST44 – Neiting, both in the feet.
- Search for online diagrams, guides and acupuncture smartphone apps to help you locate these points more accurately.
Many use the “cun” as a measure unit, this is equivalent to the width of your thumb. Three “cun” is equal to the width of the four fingers of your hand.
- Stimulate each point on both sides of your body for approximately 6 seconds.
You can use acupressure, put pressure on the point just below the pain threshold with your knuckle, fingertip or tool. You should feel a pleasant pressure. Optionally you can use a portable electro-acupuncture tool which several studies conclude it may be more effective than acupressure.
- Repeat the session twice or thrice a week at most until you experience an improvement in your TMJ
Studies usually evaluated results in patients after the 3rd month of treatment with great improvements but each case is different and you can experience an improvement earlier. Don’t forget to use acupuncture as a complement to your Doctor and Physiotherapist prescribed treatments as this is how you will experience the best results.
Studies Prove that Acupuncture for TMJ Works
- A research study in Ribeirao Preto graduate school, Sao Paulo University in Brazil, found that after three months of treatment, patients with TMJ felt considerably less pain, more strength of their bite and reduced electromiographical (EMG) activity of the mastication muscles. EMG is the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles on activation which, upon measure, can reveal abnormalities.
- Dentists studied 17 patients applying acupuncture for TMJ. They measured EMG before and after each session finding patients had lower EMG activity at rest, mastication, moving the jaw left and right, clenching and maximum bite force after finishing all acupuncture sessions. 
- A 2007 study by Philip Smith et al. from the School of Dentistry in the University of Manchester made a double blind trial where twenty seven patients received real and sham acupuncture. The results demonstrated that real acupuncture had greater influence on TMJ and patients improved their pain perception. 
- Another double blind study in 2012 by K. Itoh, S. Ayai et al. from the Meiji University in Kyoto reached the same conclusions after evaluating 16 volunteers during a 10 week period. The patients experienced a significant pain perception reduction but their oral function remained unchanged. 
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Before attempting any treatment you must identify the underlying causes of your disorder and treat them holistically together with your sessions of acupuncture for TMJ or the symptoms will eventually reappear.
- Bad posture habits: forward head posture is one of the causes of disorders in TMJ because the neck muscles are connected to the jaw. Perform kinesiology/physiotherapy exercises that correct this bad posture habit. Avoid resting your chin on the hands, be more aware of your body and its posture.
- Gum chewing: use bite guards if it happens in your sleep, also see tooth grinding below. Avoid clenching your jaw, try to keep your teeth slightly apart whenever possible. See what’s the cause of the clenching or chewing, for example you can have parasites, nerve injuries, anger management issues, traumas, etc. all making you unconsciously tense the muscles. Identify the causes and consult with a dentist specialized in TMJ and Disclusion Time Reduction Therapy DTR. This is a therapy that uses a variantion of the acupuncture stimulation explained below but using more EMG diagnosis tools and an electric current to release the jaw muscles.
- Arthritis: studies found a possible cause of this disease is an unbalanced gut flora. Consume probiotics and lyprinol, a mussel oil with amazing joint healing properties.
- Injury to the teeth: pain in a root canal can cause an involuntary spasm in the muscles on one or both sides of the jaw. Even your body unconsciously can misalign your jaw because it associates this position with feeling less pain. This forced position can eventually cause TMJ and other disorders so, again consult with your dentist.
- Tooth grinding/bruxism caused by gut parasites: ask your doctor/gastroenterologist for a stool analysis or buy an at-home test kit.
- Misalignment of the jaw or teeth: after you identify the root causes of a misalignment consult an TMJ specialized dentist, orthodontist or maxilofacial surgeon. Avoid actions that result in jaw muscle tightness like excessive or extreme jaw movements, chewing and yawning.
- Avoid & manage stress: check my article on natural remedies for anxiety and search for other relaxation techniques if those are not enough, avoid anxiolytic medication if possible.
TMJ Intro & Accompanying Exercises
Testimonial Relief After 20 Years with TMJ
Advantages of Acupuncture for TMJ
- Effective remedy with no side effects except some localized bruises in rare occasions.
- About twelve to twenty four treatments to reset the muscles and maxillary joint to a healthy condition.
- Even if you need a revisit eventually in the case stress levels increase, the absence of negative side effects allow patients to receive as many acupuncture sessions as they need.
- Enjoy food and deeper sleep again knowing that the improvements you’re gradually experiencing are not temporary but part of a healing process.
- Reduce your dental bill lowering or even eliminating the number of sessions you will need with a dentist and the additional prescribed products, medication and pain killers.
- Reduce your medical bill to zero if you learn to DIY as I explain below. Repeat the treatment when and wherever you need without having to visit a professional.
Why Acupuncture for TMJ Works
Acupuncture reduces the inflammation surrounding the nerve and temporomandibular joints producing an instant relief lasting several days. Patients will require additional sessions to keep the muscle and nerve inflammation under control long term as I mentioned above.
Nerve cells recover a balanced function and don’t send pain signals as often.
Acupuncture treatment produces some endocrine and metabolic actions; an increase of endorphin, dopamine and serotonin secretion. These hormones regulate anxiety, blood pressure, inflammation, pain perception, mood, regulation of addictive behavior, appetite and sleep.
That’s one of the reasons behind why acupuncture often produces an instant relief and is effective for many health problems.
Acupuncture also reduces the cracking associated with TMJ by relaxing the lateral pterygoid muscles of the jaw which reduces lateral stress these muscles put on the jaw meniscus. The three pterygoid connect the back of the jawbone to the base of the skull, managing the jaw’s side movements, when they are tense or spastic these muscles move the temporomandibular joint out of place producing the characteristic jaw clicking and cracking plus an unnecessary wear on the bones and cartilage.
Stimulation Points of Acupuncture for TMJ
Each session consists of needles being inserted, or a soft electric current if you use my option, surrounding the jaw and knee, the ear, big toe and elbows. This is because of the way meridians governing different organs run along the whole body.
Many scientists and acupuncturists believe meridians are lines of increased bioelectrical activity of the body. By stimulating determined points along these meridian lines, acupuncturists are able to restore an unbalanced bioelectrical activity produced by illnesses or injuries. This is what ancient Chinese doctors called Qi or life force.
Save Money with DIY Acupuncture
No needles, automated point location
This device is used by acupuncturists who want to save time and effort and now is available for the general public!It locates the acupuncture points for you, emitting a light and sound warning when it locates them. Once located it uses a soft current to stimulate the points instead traditional needles. No need to learn complicated acupuncture charts. Easy acupuncture treatment at home whenever you need it.
The points to stimulate in each session are organized by a table with all the body areas where the points are located and all can be stimulated in the order you find most comfortable. Each point has a symmetrical equivalent in both left and right halves of the body if you divide it by the spine and you must stimulate both before passing to the next point. After the table there’s a slideshow with pictures of all body areas to treat and will help you locate with pinpoint precision all the points.
The instructions given below should be enough to perform a DIY acupuncture with a point locator device. This electroacupuncture device locates the acupuncture points for you with a display and a beep, then you only have to apply a soft current with the touch of a button and you will achieve the same or even better effect as if you used acupuncture needles. If you want more detailed instructions on how to use electroacupuncture to treat TMJ or any other health problem with acupuncture read my article Electroacupuncture An Option for Home Treatment.
Point Table & Slideshow
|Head Front||EX HN3 (only one), BL2 – Cuanzhu, GB14 – Yangbai|
|Jaws||ST6 – Jiache, ST7 – Xiaguan|
|Nape||GB20 – Fengchi|
|Ears||SI19 – Tinggong|
|Hands||LI4 – Hegu|
|Knees||ST36 – Zusanli, GB34 – Yanglingquan|
|Ankles||KI3 – Taixi|
|Feet||LR3 – Taichong, ST44 – Neiting|
Diagram flash slides courtesy of Understand Acupuncture. If you’re browsing from mobile you can use Zappol Acupuncture for Android or Acupuncture Points for Apple. Note that I do not endorse these apps, use them at your own responsibility and discretion or find others more suitable to your needs.