Dry Needling for TMJ Pain
Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), also known to most as Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain, is defined as :
‘aching in the muscles of mastication, sometimes with occasional brief severe pain on chewing, often associated with restricted jaw movement and clicking or popping sounds
Many treatment methods can be used to:
gain sufficient muscle power
provide adequate posture
improve range of motion of the temporomandibular (TM) joint
In physical therapy treatments, dry needling can be used to help all of the above that are associated with TMJ pain. Most of the pain is usually referred to as orofascial pain. Most patients feel the pain directly at the joint just in front of the ear, but also referral pain from muscles in the jaw can cause headaches and pain around the mouth and/or nose.
Dry needling is a method for relief of pain. This method is considered an effective treatment in pain relief and recovery of the muscle activity associated with trigger points. A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot in a palpable taut band of a muscle that is often sensitive to palpation and stretch. The stretch sensitivity can be a daily irritant with any type of jaw movement (such as talking and eating)!.
Most patients with TMJ pain have trigger points in the:
lateral pterygoid muscles
Several studies show that trigger point dry needling treatment of the temporal and masseter muscles presents significant improvement in pain and mouth opening in the patients with bruxism. It has also been shown to be effective in improving pain associated with chewing, mouth opening, and muscle spasm.
The needle acts by mechanically impairing the sensory or motor components of nerve endings that contribute to abnormal functioning contractile elements or trigger point activity. Dry needling is a safe and practical method used for the treatment of the myofascial trigger point.
There are many reasons why you could have TMJ pain and it could also be related to your neck and posture. Additionally, it could be related to dental and teeth dysfunction, which we recommend you talk to your dentist.
Patients with TMJ / TMD are treated with a multimodal treatment at PhysioFit of North Carolina. We include dry needling, other myofascial release techniques, mobilizations to the neck and strengthening of the neck muscles.
Additionally, we speak about eating habits, sleeping postures and other anxiety & stressful triggers that can elicit your symptoms.
If you are having TMJ pain, symptoms associated with chewing/talking or even headaches, this type of treatment could be highly effective to help you.
Harrison Vaughan is a physical therapist and co-owner of PhysioFit of North Carolina. He uses dry needling in his practice, alongside other methods, to help you with TMJ pain. He sees and treats uncommon and chronic craniofascial pain. He utilizes the Feel it to Heal it Physio Approach to determine which motions of your jaw and neck are feeling where they are supposed to be, but just as important, where they are not supposed to be! This is also useful for any type of exercise intervention, as some exercises that are prescribed “pick” at your symptoms.