Acupuncture for TMJ – The Best Alternative Jaw Pain Remedy

Can acupuncture help TMJ? Certainly can. Temporomandibular joint disfunction causes severe pain and discomfort, so seeking the best treatment for TMJ is probably your primary goal.

As far as terminology is concerned, the term “TMJ” is widely used to refer to Temporomandibular joint disorders. There are also various acronyms used to describe the condition, like TM, TMD, TMDJ; they are all connected to the syndrome, not the joint itself. Bottom line, TMJ=TM=TMD=TMDJ.

TMJ disorders affect up to 15% of adults, usually between 20 to 40 years of age. It is more common in women than in men, but only 5-10% of patients require medical treatment. In comparison, 40% of patients have spontaneous resolution of symptoms.

Acupuncture for TMJ, combined with ART (Active Release Technique), gives excellent results in relieving symptoms of TMJ. The success of acupuncture for TMJ dysfunction lies in the pain sensation reduction due to the endorphin-releasing. It is used to stimulate nerves directly, changing the signaling along with nerve cells.

Acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) procedures treat the root causes of TMJ (muscle tension, stress, pain). This article will deal with the most effective TCM treatments and procedures for TMJ pain relief.

TMJ Acupuncture in San Diego: Makari Wellness San Diego

When you seek the best treatment for TMJ, Makari Wellness may be the right address for you. We provide the natural solution to complex conditions and helping people gain freedom from pain and illness.

Our treatments are unique, customized, and above everything, drug-free. The best results are achieved by combining traditional acupuncture, ART, Dry Needling, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Trigger Point Therapy. In that way, we will be able to relieve the symptoms of TMJ disorders most efficiently.


Do not wait until your jaw joint pain becomes unbearable; call us at (888) 871-8889 and book your initial appointment.

What is TMJ?

TMJ or Temporomandibular joint is a joint that connects your jawbone and your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. They are located in front of each ear, allowing you to chew, talk, yawn, and move the jaw from side to side.

This joint combines a hinge action with sliding motions. Both sides of the bones interacting in the joint are covered with the cartilage and separated by a small shock-absorbing disc that allows a smooth joint movement. Any disorder of that perfect alignment can cause pain, stiffness, and locking of the joint.

The temporomandibular joint syndrome is a problem with your jaw and muscles that control jaw movement. It can cause severe pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles on only one side or both sides. In most cases, the pain and discomfort can be relieved with self-care or alternative medical treatments.

TMJ syndrome is divided into 2 groups: myogenous TMD (related to the chewing muscle disorder) and arthrogenous TMD (associated with the joint itself).

TMJ Causes

It is not entirely clear what causes the TMJ disorder. The widely accepted theory is that a combination of different factors causes it. Potential causes may include the following:

  • Genetics
  • Arthritis
  • Structural jaw problems
  • Erosion of the joint
  • Jaw injury or dislocation
  • Excessive gum chewing or tooth grinding (bruxism)
  • Some nerve problems
  • Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles
  • Bone or soft tissue tumors
  • Poor diet
  • Infection
  • Lack of sleep, etc.

Stress is one crucial factor that can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth. Since TMJ is more common in women than in men, some researches are conducted to find the link between TMJ and female hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

TMJ Symptoms

The main TMJ jaw disorder symptom is pain in the jaw and the surrounding muscles. The pain may involve teeth, ears, neck, eyes, forehead, and the whole face. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Crepitus (popping or clicking of the jaw)
  • Pain that feels like a toothache
  • Limited jaw movements
  • Headaches like migraines
  • Tight, stiff, and sore jaw and neck muscles
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo (dizziness)
  • Tinnitus (ringing or popping sounds in the ears)
  • Sense of fullness in the ears
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Lockjaw (locking of the jaw)
  • Chin numbness or tingling
  • Pain at the base of the tongue
  • Pain, lump, or swelling in the temple area
  • A tired feeling on your face

The TMJ symptoms may be episodic and related to the stressful lifestyle. Not all people with the TMJ disorder will experience the same symptoms, nor all of them. TMJ is linked to many other medical conditions; it is more than just a jaw or dental problem.

Overall prognosis is good, and severe complications are rare. Still, if they occur, they include chronic face pain or chronic migraines. When TMJ disorder is associated with other inflammatory diseases like infection, tumors, or arthritis, long-term treatment is necessary.

TMJ Diagnosis

There is no standardized test that will determine the presence of TMJ disorder. We mentioned earlier that the exact causes and symptoms are not always clear, so your family physician will note your symptoms and ask about your health history.

Then the doctor will conduct a physical exam and may order an X-ray imaging, computer tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They will provide a better view of your TMJ disc and the bony detail of the joints. It will also rule out other problems like sinus or ear infections, different types of headaches, toothaches, and nerve-related facial pain (facial neuralgias).

What type of doctor treats TMJ dysfunction? There is no specific TMJ specialist; several different specialists can diagnose TMJ syndrome.

The first doctor you need to see is a primary care provider (PCP). He/she may send you to an oral (maxillofacial) surgeon or a dentist specializing in jaw disorders, or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) to confirm the diagnosis.

TMJ is a complex condition that involves multiple body systems – cardiovascular, immunological, neurological, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and digestive. They contribute to the onset and severity of the symptoms associated with TMJ and also influence the treatment outcomes.

TMJ Treatment

When your TMJ pain is persistent, there is a variety of TMJ treatments. Some of them may include medicaments, non-drug therapies, and alternative medicine techniques.

How to relieve TMJ pain? There are some things you can do on your own for pain management.

  • Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen, ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. They can relieve muscle pain and swelling.
  • Eat soft food like mashed potatoes, soup, scrambled eggs, yogurt, cooked vegetables, and cut them into small pieces to avoid extreme jaw movements.
  • Apply gentle massage and/or self-stretching of the jaw or neck muscles. Ask a doctor or physical therapist for the recommendation.
  • Avoid chewing gums and chewy food.
  • Apply ice or cold packs to the area of the joint. Sometimes even a moist heat pack can help. Still, you need to perform this routine a few times a day: first, put an ice pack for 10 minutes, then do simple jaw stretches and when you are done, apply a warm towel for about 5 minutes.
  • Avoid opening your mouth wide; keep yawning, yelling, singing to a minimum.
  • Keep your teeth slightly apart as often as you can to reduce the pressure on your jaw.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques to help you with stress management.
  • Wearing a dental splint or bite guard. It is a dental appliance placed in the mouth that prevents tooth grinding and keeps the teeth in alignment.

Another option is surgery if none of the abovementioned treatments can help you. It includes arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery. Surgeries are a severe type of treatment, so it is essential to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of these procedures.

TMJ Treatment Acupuncture

Some recent studies of 70 cases of dental patients receiving TMJ acupuncture indicated that 85% of patients experienced a pain reduction of 75%.

TMJ acupuncture is a growing jaw pain relief trend in the US. You are probably asking: Will acupuncture help TMJ? Here is the answer, together with some most important facts about TMJ acupuncture points.

Acupuncture is a part of the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that acts by restoring the imbalanced Qi, or vital life energy. It involves the insertion of thin needles into the body’s specific points. Those points are called acupuncture points, located along meridians, and contain a high nerve endings density.

Meridians are energy pathways that run throughout the body. When that energy is not in balance, an illness occurs, so TCM seeks to resolve the origin of the problem and restore the balance of the Qi. Correcting the overall flow of the body’s energy can help relieve stress, pain, and other contributing factors to TMJ disorder.

Some acupuncture points for TMJ are located around the ear and the jaw, while others are located near the elbows, knees, and big toe. It can help relax muscle spasms by stimulating them and thereby reducing the pressure on the joint.

Some most common acupoints include:

  • Li-4 (Hegu) is located between the base of your thumb and index finger. Suitable for treating headaches.
  • GB-20 (Feng Chi) is an acupoint located by feeling for the ear bone and following the groove back to where the neck muscles attach to the skull and helps manage migraines.
  • ST-7 (Xiaguan) is located on the face, anterior to the ear, in a depression between the zygomatic arch and the mandibular notch, with your mouth closed. Successfully treats tinnitus, facial paralysis, the pain of the face, and motor impairment of the jaw.
  • GV-20 (Baihui) is one of the essential acupoints used in neurology and psychiatry. It is responsible for enhancing nitric oxide (NO) generation and increasing local circulation, located at the top of the head, in line with the tips of the ears.
  • BL-10 (Tianzhu) is located at the top of the neck, on the outer border of the trapezius muscle. It is used to treat neck pain, dizziness, and headaches.
  • SI-8 (Xiaohai) is located in the ulnar sulcus between the olecranon and medial epicondyle of the humerus when the elbow is flexed.

ART (Active Release Technique) for TMJ

ART is a non-invasive soft tissue technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, connective tissue (fascia), ligaments, and nerves. It works by breaking up adhesions, a dense collection of scar tissue that forms when the muscles and fascia are injured.

It combines manipulation and movement, promoting blood flow and faster healing of the injuries. A licensed ART therapist can palpate and treat muscular injuries and nerve entrapments that can result in tingling, numbness, and pain. When the area of scar tissue is located, it is then manipulated to break up the scar tissue and restore the proper blood flow to the area that can heal faster.

When treating stiffness of the TMJ joint, the focus is on restoring the range of motion so the jaw joint can move freely again without pain and stiffness.

Benefits of ART for TMJ include:

  • Increased flexibility of the TMJ
  • Relief of headaches
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved chronic neck pain

Herbs for TMJ

Though MTJ pain can come and go, some patients reported its chronic nature – dealing with the pain daily. Perhaps a proper herbal remedy may be precisely what you need.

A certified Chinese herbalist will use various herbs and combine them to find the best formula for your condition. They can be in the form of pills, powders, extracts, teas, capsules, or dried or fresh herbs; they can significantly reduce the usage of drugs.

Some common herbs used to relieve TMJ syndrome include:

  • Kava root: It can calm your nervous system and ease jaw stiffness.
  • Butterfly weed: Helps joints produce more synovial fluid, thus easing the pain.
  • Agrimony: Used in the form of tincture, it eases tension in the jaw muscles.
  • Clove: is an oral anesthetic, antiseptic, and infection fighter. Chewing cloves reduces gumming swelling from TMJ pain. It can be used in the form of essential oil, tea, or cooked in food.
  • Blue vervain: Relaxes clenched bite and relieves shoulder pain along with the TMJ problem.
  • Rosemary: is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-filled herb, increases the effectiveness of antibiotics.
  • Ginger: helps with ear and sinus pain; one of the most soothing herbs for TMJ pain, perfect for sinus jaw pain remedyrinsing with Neti Pot.

Jaw Exercises

Your acupuncturist will recommend certain jaw exercises to strengthen the temporomandibular joint and ease the signs of jaw clenching, pain, and difficulties opening and closing the mouth. For instance:

  • Open your mouth as wide as you can without feeling pain, and then move your jaw to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Do the same to the left and repeat 5 times.
  • In a downward motion, massage the muscles around your jaw hinge.

Lifestyle Changes

Holistic healthcare practitioners, such as acupuncturists, will encourage you to introduce some vital lifestyle changes to improve your overall health, ease the signs of TMJ disorder, or any other condition you might face.

You can begin with simple diet modifications and a low-intensity workout. These changes will reduce your stress and help you embrace a happy and healthy life without being dependent on medicines.

Alongside acupuncture for jaw clenching, your practitioner may suggest some vitamins and minerals to help strengthen the joints and prevent severe jaw injuries. People with TMJ disorder often have calcium and magnesium deficiencies, which is why they are recommended to take these minerals through food and supplements.

Eat more foods rich in magnesium, such as cashews, avocados, almonds, sesame butter, squash, spinach, rice, and flaxseed. To enhance your calcium intake, consider milk, coconut, yogurt, bananas, etc.