Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is a common condition that is characterized by pain and jaw dysfunction. TMJ is used to describe a wide range of conditions associated with jaw pain and restricted jaw movement. While TMJ isn't life-threatening, it can negatively impact a person's quality of life, causing bouts of insomnia, stress, pain and disability.
It's estimated that up to 30 percent of the world's adult population suffers from TMJ, most of whom are between the ages of 20 and 40. Many people living with this condition simply mask the pain with prescription painkillers or other medications. In doing so, however, they create other problems, such as increased stress on the liver and stomach. Acupuncture offers an alternative treatment that instead of masking the pain, works to reduce symptoms at the source.
Several studies suggest that it acupuncture does in fact help relieve the pain and other symptoms associated with TMJ. One recent study involving 70 dental patients in the U.K. found that acupuncture relieved their pain by as much as 75 percent. Another study found acupuncture to offer long-term patient satisfaction when used to treat TMJ (acupuncture treatment was given 18-20 years prior to the follow-up).
The 2,000-year-old practice of acupuncture involves the placement of thin needles directly under the skin in specific locations known as acupuncture points. Acupuncturists believe that when we are healthy, our body is in balance and our natural energies are flowing properly. There are times when the body’s natural flow will be blocked, disrupted, or stagnant, leaving the person susceptible to disease and illness. Acupuncture works by releasing these blockages through acupuncture points to return your body to its natural flow.
Acupuncture is also known to stimulate the body's self-healing process, which could in turn relieve the muscle tension attributed to TMJ. People with TMJ often clench or grind their jaws without realizing it. Acupuncture treatment can help relax the muscles from their clenched position.
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Sources: http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Acupuncture-for-TMJ, http://www.dentistry.unc.edu/patient/acupuncture/documents/brochure.pdf