Can Acupuncture Help with Your TMJ Pain?

Drugs are hardly the only solution when it comes to TMJ pain. Take acupuncture, for instance.

New research in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies offers some new evidence that the therapy may provide at least temporary relief from TMJ problems by rebalancing the energy (Qi) along the meridians.

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge for your jaw. There’s one on each side of your head. Injury, misalignment, and behaviors like bruxing can damage these joints and adjacent structures and cause them to work incorrectly.

Here’s how the TMJ functions normally:

Here’s how it looks in one type of dysfunction:

TMD can lead to ongoing problems with headaches and pain in the jaws, face, neck, and shoulders. You may have ringing in your ears or other hearing issues. You may feel toothache-like pain. You may have popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you chew. It can become hard to even open your mouth.

Suffice it to say, TMD is no fun.

But back to the study, in which 43 TMJ patients were separated into two groups. For four weeks, one group was treated with traditional acupuncture; the other, with sham acupuncture (no needle penetration). Meridian assessments were taken before and after each session.

acupuncture diagram of headInterestingly, both groups experienced less pain. Both groups experienced a decrease in Yang energy.

But only those who received real acupuncture maintained Yin energy levels over the course of the study. They were also more able to open their mouths on their own without pain.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yin and Yang energies must be balanced to maintain good health.

Increasingly, the medical establishment is accepting acupuncture as a valid treatment for various forms of pain. In fact, earlier this year, the FDA gave it a preliminary endorsement for pain management.

On a similar note, the Joint Commission – a major medical accreditor – also now recognizes acupuncture as an effective stand-alone or combination treatment for TMD. According to commentary in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, this turnaround provides great opportunities for integrative pain treatment.

[Integrative clinicians can] use it to convince naysayers by showing them that the evidence behind these services and practitioners in pain treatment has been prevetted by a conservative organization that serves as medicine’s police force. Notably, the pharmacologic approaches are appropriately—if only for alphabetical reasons—listed prior to pharmaceuticals. Clearly these typically more high-touch, time-, and human-intensive approaches are not relegated to the past role of if all else fails, try acupuncture.

Of course, there are other therapies that can help, as well, in providing long-term relief from TMJ problems without drugs and without surgery. The key, as ever, is to identify the cause and address that through treatment suited to that specific cause. In some cases, that might be appliance therapy; in others, DTR; in others, neural prolotherapy.

One size seldom fits all.

Image by Mot

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Guest Post: Dental Ozone Is for More Than Just Fighting Pathogens

Our thanks to the office of St. Louis biological dentist Dr. Michael Rehme for letting us share this post from their blog. The original is here.

ozone moleculeWhen you hear about ozone in dentistry, it’s usually about its power to fight infection. That power comes courtesy of a third oxygen atom that turns “breathing” oxygen (O2) into ozone (O3). This makes the molecule unstable. It really wants to lose that extra atom and become “regular” oxygen once again.

That instability is what makes it such a powerful antimicrobial. That third atom readily attaches to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, interfering with their function. Ozone also stimulates oxygen metabolism and activates the immune system, further defending against harmful microorganisms.

So ozone is ideal for treating infectious conditions such as gum disease and dental caries (tooth decay). It’s also used to support healing from dental surgery and preparing teeth for restorations.

What you don’t hear about so much in dentistry is ozone for treating pain, such as from tooth sensitivity or TMJ disorders. Yet here, too, it may have a role to play.

A new study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation focuses on this – in particular, treating chronic pain in the chewing muscles. The trial compared treatment results between two groups of women, one that received ozone therapy, one that received sham ozone as a placebo.

Both groups experienced improvements, actually.

However, the study hypothesis that bio-oxidative ozone application to the sites of most severe pain would produce better results than sham bio-oxidative ozone application at predetermined points was supported. Bio-oxidative ozone application appeared to be superior to sham bio-oxidative ozone application and differences were significant. [emphasis added]

Pain intensity went down and patients’ pressure pain thresholds went up. They also experienced ”significantly better results” with respect to their ability to move their jaw compared to the placebo group.

masseter muscleThe follows earlier research suggesting that ozone may be more effective than drugs for treating TMJ pain. In one such study, 87% of patients receiving ozone therapy either improved or recovered completely. Only about a third of the patients in the drug group showed improvement, and none recovered completely.

Why should ozone help with pain? Dr. Frank Shallenberger, among others, has suggested that chronic pain results from a lack of oxygen utilization. “Reverse this,” he says, “and an area of chronic pain will become normal again. Reverse this, and an area of chronic degeneration will begin to regenerate exactly as it was supposed to in the first place.”

Cells need oxygen to heal. Ozone stimulates the healing response.

This makes it even more valuable to dentistry – and medicine – than ever. Powerful. Effective. Non-invasive. Safe. What more could you ask for in a treatment?

Masseter image by Anatomography