Acupuncture treatment for temporomandibular disorders


Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) is a group of disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and its associated structures. Acupuncture treatment for temporomandibular disorders can be the associated when conventional treatment does not respond satisfactorily.

The most common symptomatology consists in limited jaw movements or locked jaw, facial muscles stiffness and pain. Pain induced by TMDs has a tendency to become chronic and in the long run become resistant to medication. This condition brings about a heavy psychological burden and is associated with frequent sleep disorders and depression. Acupuncture combined with medication is giving satisfactory results in reducing or eliminating pain or other symptoms arising from temporomandibular disorders. Very often pain and facial muscle stiffness are associated to tension-type headache and neck pain.

Conventional treatment consist of reducing pain and inflammation as well as restoring normal mandibular function. Frequently the department of dentistry will prescribe an oral appliance, such as stabilization splints or bite guards and medication consist mainly in anti-inflammatory drugs and local anesthetic. Surgery can be the last resort in case of severe condition. In case of depression, the treatment include antidepressants and sedatives.

When conventional treatment does not respond so well, the acupuncture treatment can either replace or be associated to the treatment. Acupuncture, when applied on the face and neck muscles, can relax the muscles, reduce or eliminate the local inflammation and get rid of the pain. In case of headache or depression, a specific acupuncture treatment will be associated to take care of those conditions.

Facial muscles stiffness and pain usually bring about anxiety, which in turn will increase stiffness and pain. Acupuncture has an immediate effect in reducing anxiety, thus helping to decrease the tension in the facial muscles.

Acupuncture treatment management
Acupuncture treatment is applied with 3 sessions weekly until pain and stiffness disappears. Usually improvement becomes apparent from the first acupuncture session and associated symptoms such as neck pain, headache, insomnia and depression will gradually disappear.

Reducing anti-inflammatory medication should be considered when pain and inflammation start to decrease. Again, antidepressant as well as sedative medication should be reduced or discontinued, when mood and sleep conditions are back to normal.

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Federico Marmori

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