I had an old patient come back for a new issue the other day. He had not been able to open his mouth more than a couple of centimeters for 4 weeks. This patient could not eat or brush his teeth properly. He was drinking milk shakes, smoothies and soup to get nutrition. He had a tooth extracted 4 weeks earlier and shortly after the procedure he found himself in this terrible situation with his mouth clamped shut.
He had been to back to see his dentist, a physical therapist, and a TMJ specialist all to no avail. I always say patients need acupuncture after major dental work! From our clinical experience, 99% of pain in the head and jaw is coming from the neck and shoulders. We worked on his jaw with trigger point acupuncture, we did acupuncture using imaging, and on the 3rd session, I treated him face down, and worked on his neck and shoulders, which were extremely tight. When I finished needling I asked him to try to open his mouth and he practically yelled, “bring me a pizza!!” I told him it may take a couple of times to get him to 100%. Today he called to cancel his appointment a couple of days out because his problem was resolved. This is a man who could not eat and was facing possible surgery. I say it all day long, acupuncture is amazing. It blows me away everyday!
We have many patients who come into the clinic complaining of jaw pain. We often use the catch-all term “TMJ” to describe all kinds of jaw pain, although it technically stands for temporomandibular joint. TMJ is often a result of muscular strain, rather than a structural issue with the joint itself. It can cause all kinds of pain in the jaw, but also the neck, face and head. It can even cause symptoms with the ears, including tinnitus (ear-ringing) or a plugged feeling in the ears. We often see a connection between TMJ and sinus issues, with patients presenting with frontal headaches and sinus pressure. There are not many treatments offered by conventional medicine that provide long-term relief, and many of the therapies offered, including bite guards and medications, can be cumbersome and do not fully address the problem.
Acupuncture has been found to offer immediate relief from TMJ symptoms, as well as effectively treat stress, one of the leading contributing factors to TMJ pain. Research has been done and continues to show that TMJ is very common for people who also report high levels of stress. TMJ is also very common in women. At Acupuncture Northwest, we specialize in trigger point acupuncture, a method that allows us to find and release the tight muscles responsible for the jaw pain. Some of the most common muscles involved are the masseter (our chewing muscle), temporalis, SCM and trapezius muscles. We also address the underlying causes for the jaw pain, including muscle tension, stress, teeth grinding, sleep issues, and other factors that might be in play.
There is no need to continue to suffer with TMJ symptoms. Acupuncture is an easy and effective way to release tight muscles and relieve pain!