Jaw/TMJ Problems - Girl experiencing facial pain and muscle stiffness in the jaw
A patient couldn’t open his mouth wide after a dental procedure. He was referred to see a surgeon for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ/jaw). There was no significant swelling, or inflammation in the teeth and the TMJ. But he felt his jaw lock, preventing him from opening his mouth normally. It had a very limited range of motion, as evidenced by the photos below.
Then he had a mild surgery around the TMJ in order to help the range of motion of his jaw. Weeks later, he didn’t feel improvement and still couldn’t open his mouth properly. What’s worse, he couldn’t go back to get his second dental treatment (putting a new crown on) done as he couldn’t open his mouth enough. He was struggling with wearing a temporary crown and could only eat with one side for weeks.
When he first came to me, the range of motion of his jaw was very restricted. He felt tender in TMJ but not much swelling or pain. He could move his jaw from side to side, but up and down was not satisfactory. After some checks, I saw it as a TMJ disorder.
The exact cause of TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. It could be physical injury, overuse, chronic grinding or clenching of teeth, stress, anxiety, etc. Some might have more pain in the jaw joint, while some have restricted movements rather than pain.
My treatment plan for him was:
6-10 acupuncture treatments, combined with flash cupping/ seed-sized moxibustion;
2 sessions/week;
self-care jaw functional exercises twice/day.
In the meantime, he also had some stress from work, cravings for sugar and salt, loose bowel motion, wiry pulse, light red tongue with a yellow thick coating. These symptoms are closely related to the liver and gall bladder in Chinese medicine. And TMJ actually lies on hand/foot Shaoyang Sanjiao/gall bladder Meridians.
By treating a patient holistically, the result would usually be much better than just treating problems locally or separately. That’s one of the biggest differences between dry needling and traditional Chinese acupuncture.
After every acupuncture treatment, he felt improvement and made progress. And after 6 sessions, he managed to open his mouth wide enough to proceed with getting his new crown done!
It was his first time to try acupuncture. He feels amazed by how acupuncture and Chinese medicine help not only his jaw but also his digestive system and stress. And in this case, compared to the surgery (which cost him more than $2000), six sessions of Chinese holistic treatments (less than $550) are much more economical and painless without side effects.