Acupuncture for Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
The term Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) refers to a group of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), the joints located on both sides of the face in front of the ears, connecting the jaw to the skull. The joints are fairly complicated and allow for all the various movements of the jaw. Because of the complex nature of these joints, disorders can arise in a number of ways.
People have been known to live with TMD/TMJ for many years before seeking medical help. Sometimes the disorders are brought on suddenly from trauma or injury. Symptoms of TMD/TMJ include:
- Pain in the face, ears and jaw
- Ears that feel muffled or clogged
- Pain when chewing
- Dental pain
- Chipped or worn teeth
- Difficulty moving the jaw
- Neck, back, shoulder and chest pain
- Jaw clicking (popping/snapping) when chewing or yawning
- Light sensitivity
- Jaw locking
- Change in bite
The number, type and severity of symptoms ranges from person to person, and can change over time.
The Causes of TMD/TMJ
Symptoms of TMD/TMJ can appear with no obvious underlying cause, or they can occur because of clear trauma such as a car accident or injury. It is believed that the majority of cases of TMD/TMJ are the result of trauma. Other events that can lead to TMD/TMJ include:
- Excessive teeth clenching/grinding, gum chewing or nail biting
- Stress and tension have been known to aggravate TMD/TMJ
- Malocclusion or bad bite
- Orthodontics – there is some evidence to suggest that TMD/TMJ is related to orthodontic treatments such as braces
- Infections such as the measles can damage the joints of the jaw, leading to TMD/TMJ
A number of TMJ patients have been visiting our acupuncture clinic following their TMJ specialist’s referral. I have observed severe asymmetrical upper cervical tension in almost every patient with TMJ pain. In many cases we monitor the patient’s heart rate variability (HRV) during acupuncture treatment.
An undesirable increase of the very low frequency band (which is mainly sympathetically mediated and thought to be linked to anxiety and ruminate thought) of HRV is observed when patients are in sleep. Abnormal excitation of the sympathetic system can be considered to lead to prolonged tension in the jaw and neck muscles.
Besides treating local neck and jaw tension, TMJ treatment should be focused on stress management to improve sleep quality. Systemic and SES acupuncture and HRV biofeedback technique is utilized to restore the balance of the autonomic nervous system and to help create more restful sleep patterns.
For more information on how acupuncture can help your TMJ pain or TMD, contact the Pacific Wellness Institute in Toronto. Their experienced acupuncturists can help you determine the best course of acupuncture treatment.