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Acupuncture for TMJ disorders: unclench your jaw !

Woman receiving acupuncture for TMJ with multiple needles on her face and jaw area

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is the name given to pain and clicking in the jaw, more precisely the masticatory muscles of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

This disorder affects an estimated 10 million Americans, and one-third of adults will experience symptoms of TMD over their life span.[1,2]

We see patients with this disorder on a daily basis at taproot!

Science backs the efficacy of acupuncture for TMJ disorders

Research suggests that acupuncture is a great tool for pain management, no matter where the pain is located. It works by directly stimulating the release of endorphins and pain killing neurotransmitters. For TMJ disorders, acupuncture suppresses the pain perception in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis and spinal dorsal horn neurons via modulation of the release of neurotransmitters.[3,4]

doctor pointing at the mandibular joint on a skeleton

Several clinical studies proved the efficacy of acupuncture for treating head and facial pain.[5,6]

While acupuncture may not eliminate the cause of TMD resulting from structural anomalies, such as degenerative changes and disc displacement, acupuncture can help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with the conditions.

Acupuncture can help muscle relaxation and reduce muscle spasms, if the spasms are muscular in origin.[7]

Acupuncture can also help minimize TMJ “clicking” by relaxing the lateral pterygoid muscles, and reducing the anterior displacing force on the meniscus of the TMJ. [8]

A recent British study of 70 cases of dental patients receiving acupuncture for TMJ indicated that 85% of patients benefited, with an average reduction in pain intensity of 75%. [9]

Lifestyle changes for easing TMJ

  • When teeth grinding or clenching is an issue, wearing a mouth night guard from your dentist can help prevent these actions in sleep. Bite plates can also help correct misalignment.

  • Stress reduction, relaxation techniques, jaw stretching exercises, and modifying chewing habits are all behavioral approaches that have proved effective. An acupuncturist can help guide patients with these lifestyle changes to eliminate TMJ discomfort.

  • Be mindful of your posture throughout the day: draw your skull up and back and sit up straight. Sounds simple, but it’s a remembering game. Getting your computer off your lap, or leading with your chest instead of your nose while walking, are a couple of examples of mindful ways to make sure your head isn’t jutting forward.

Self massage and acupressure

woman giving herself guasha massage on the jawline with a pink guasha tool

Guasha for TMJ

  1. Start by unlocking your neck: place the tool at the base of your skull and slide downward toward your shoulders a few times, on each side of the spine.

  2. Brush the jaw line

  3. Release the temples with the tip of your tool, pressing in and moving it in small circles

  4. Scrape the hairline and around your ear with the "teeth" side of your tool

Acupressure for TMJ

  1. Use your thumbs to release the neck: find the acupuncture point called GB20, right at the base of your skull. To find it, place your hand right behind your earlobe, slide toward the back following the lower hairline, and stop after your slide over the "hump" of your occipital bone.

  2. Use your thumbs to release the temples: the point called Taiyang is located on the side of your eye and before the hairline, and should feel tender to the touch

  3. Use your thumb and tilt your head on one side to really dig in there, right at the jaw joint in the acupuncture point ST7, you can open and close your mouth a few times and should feel the joint moving under your finger.

Don't wait and book an appointment today!



  1. Lipton JA, Ship JA, Larach-Robinson D. Estimated Prevalence and Distribution of reported Oro-Facial Pain in the United States. JADA. 1993;124:115-121.

  2. Scrivani SJ, Keith DA, Kaban LB. Temporomandibular Disorders. N Engl J Med. 2008;18;359(25):2693-2705.

  3. Sheng LL, Nishiyama K, Honda T, Suppressive effects of Neiting acupuncture on toothache: an experimental analysis on Fos expression evoked by tooth pulp stimulation in the trigeminal subnucleus pars caudalis and the periaqueductal gray of rats. Neurosci Res. 2000;38:331-339.

  4. Zhao CH, Stillman MJ, Rozen TD. Traditional and evidence-based acupuncture in headache management: theory, mechanism, and practice. Headache. 2005;45:716-730

  5. Wang LP, Zhang XZ, Guo J, Efficacy of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: a single blinded, double dummy, randomized control trial. Pain. 2011;152:1864-1871.

  6. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Manheimer E, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;21;(1):CD007587.

  7. Wong LB. Acupuncture in dentistry: a systematic review. Proc Singapore Healthcare. 2012;21(1):432-448.

  8. List T. Acupuncture in the treatment of patients with craniomandibular disorders: comparative, longitudinal, and methodological studies. Swed Dent J Suppl. 1992;87:1-159.

  9. Rosted P, Bundgaard M, Pedersen AM. The use of acupuncture in the treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction—an audit. Acupunct Med. 2006;24(1):16-22.


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