Ways in How Acupuncture Benefits the TMJ

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The upper and lower jaws of the face are connected by a pair of joints known as TMJ or temporomandibular joint. It is a very complex joint and as such, is prone to a variety of disorders. TMJ disorder is the term to depict dysfunctions and pain of these joints. It is usually hard to treat a TMJ disorder since it can be associated with certain aspects of the body and mind including neuromuscular disorders, mental stress, and dental problems. There is good news though as sufferers of TMJ syndrome can avail themselves of a most effective alternative treatment known as acupuncture which is able to address several aspects of TMJ disorder.

While there may be several ways to treat effectively treat temporomandibular joint disorders, it is acupuncture that has demonstrated to be one of the safest and most effective treatments in several clinical studies. One noted study performed in 2007, showed that patients suffering from short-term muscle pain related to TMJ had a significant improvement of their condition after being given acupuncture. Another study, done in the UK, involved the participation of 70 dental patients with TMJ who received acupuncture. The results of the study reveal that 60 of the 70 patients benefited from the treatment and had a substantial improvement of their condition. Their average decrease in pain intensity was around 75%.

For TMJ disorders, acupuncture may serve as a standalone treatment or it can be combined with other treatment approaches. Dentists or doctors can recommend muscle relaxants, pain killers (analgesics), inflammatories and other drugs for TMJ disorder; in extreme cases, shots of corticosteroids may be given. One advantage of acupuncture is that it does not interfere with the effects of these medications and may even replace them altogether with no risk of side effects at all.

Most of us are well aware that pharmaceutical treatments merely address the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders. Acupuncture, however, not only relieves TMJ symptoms but also targets the main cause of the problem helping to reset the neuromuscular tension in the jaw by balancing the body and mind via a network of energy vessels known as meridians. TMJ is usually caused by the contracted muscles or hidden stress held in the face and jaw. In order to relieve the discomfort caused by TMJ, acupuncture helps relax these targeted muscles.

TMJ disorder long-term care also requires changes in your lifestyle and dietary habits. They will be determined by the underlying pattern of disharmony that your acupuncturist identifies as the cause of your condition. Wearing a mouth night guard during sleep may prevent teeth clenching and grinding at night. Misalignments can be corrected with bite plates. Changing the way you chew, jaw stretching exercises, relaxation techniques, and stress reduction can prove effective in resolving TMJ disorders. With the help of these lifestyle changes, your acupuncturist can eliminate TMJ pain and discomfort.

Ways in How Acupuncture Benefits the TMJ
Studies have confirmed that acupuncture can help reduce pain associated with TMJ disorder. Ancient Chinese medicine theories state that acupuncture works by returning balanced energy or Qi flow in the body. Western research has shown that there are ways on why acupuncture can successfully treat various types of conditions including TMJ disorders. Western medical literature reports in the 1970s suggested that one of the reasons why acupuncture is able to relieve pain is because the needles directly stimulate the nerves, which alters the way nerve cells sends signals to each other. Additional research works have confirmed this theory by revealing that acupuncture stimulates directly the production and release of neurotransmitters and endorphins, among other physiological effects. Neurotransmitters and endorphins are chemicals that naturally occur in the body and they help block and dampen the perception of pain by the brain. Although this has been confirmed, doctors still urge that more research is necessary to further analyze the mysteries of acupuncture since a lot of the effects of this treatment still remain mysterious and unexplainable to Western medicine.

What may be of more import than the manner in which acupuncture acts in treating (TMJ) disorder is the simple fact that there is factual proof that it works regardless if the treatment releases biological chemicals or affects Qi. Studies have shown that acupoints LI 4, BL 10, GB 20, GV 20, SI 18, ST 7, and ST 6 treated once a week half an hour each session of acupuncture treatment can address problems related to TMJ. The area of the pain which may include the jaw and around the ear may be stuck with needles. Interconnecting pathways between the meridians can also be needled, which means the big toe, knees, and the elbows can also be subjected to needles. These distal parts of the body can change Qi flow through the jaw to also alleviate inflammation and pain. Extra acupoints can also be stimulated to address other disharmonies seen in the body; when the overall circulation of QI is corrected, it can relieve stress and treat other factors that may contribute to your TMJ disorder.

For the treatment of TMJ, six acupuncture treatments are usually good enough, although for a mild condition four treatments may be adequate; chronic conditions may require more time. While these therapies result in pain relief, long-term treatment might be needed to prevent the surrounding muscles of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) from further complicating. Factors such as lowering stress, dental work, diet, and posture are all very important as they all help treat the disorder.
Acupuncture, What is It All About?
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine which is based on the idea of properly maintaining and correcting the circulation of the energy in the body known as Qi or Chi. The circulation travels along energy thoroughfares called meridians, which connect the internal organs with the body surface. The circulatory system of QI is very similar to the circulatory system of arteries and veins. The meridians form a network of channels that spread all over the body. Practitioners of TCM believe that the slowing down or blockage of the flow of Qi, can be rectified by inserting thin needles at certain acupoints along the meridians to being back normal circulation. Pressure and heat can also be applied to acupoints with the same outcome.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Causes
Symptoms of TMJ can be caused the action of orthodontics, overuse due to vigorous or excessive chewing, misalignment of the teeth and jaw, or due to an injury to the joint. Symptoms can come about or be aggravated by habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth, particularly during sleep. They include sudden misalignment of the teeth, clicking, popping, locking, reduced range of motion, as well as difficulty chewing and pain. Pain related to TMJ may radiate to the shoulders, neck, head, and face. Longstanding TMJ sufferers may experience hearing difficulties, earaches, dizziness, and headaches.

 Key words:  Acupuncture

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