Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a disease that negatively affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or the surrounding masticatory musculature, consist of pain, limited mouth opening, crepitus and a clicking sound.

Typically, treatment of TMD is nonspecific, with a wide range of therapies, including physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture, not producing fully convincing results. However, one study, titled “Effectiveness of Combining Manual Therapy and Acupuncture on Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction: A Retrospective Study,” investigated the combined use of manual therapy and acupuncture in treating clients with TMD. The results were favorable.

Forty-nine participants with TMD were analyzed for this retrospective study. They were treated with a combination of manual therapy and acupuncture two or three times a week at Wonkwang Medical Center in South Korea. These participants included 15 men and 34 women, with an average age of 30.47.

Stainless-steel acupuncture points were inserted into treatment locations and were rotated back and forth until the subject experienced the sensation of De-Qi. The acupuncture procedure lasted 20 minutes and was administered without electrical stimulation. Gentle muscle-release and manipulation techniques were applied to the lateral and medial pterygoid masseter and temporalis muscles on either the involved side or both sides after acupuncture.
The participants were measured on a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for their pain level and maximal mouth opening (MMO) before and after the first and fourth week of treatment.

The combination of acupuncture and manual therapy showed a significant decrease in pain (36.9 percent after one week and 69.1 percent after four weeks), as well as an increase in MMO (11.7 percent after one week and 21.7 percent after four weeks).

While the authors say the study provides a foundation for the exploration of manual therapy and acupuncture as a nonpharmacological therapy for reducing pain and MMO in people with TMD, they recommend a follow-up study, with possibly a control treatment, be conducted to further investigate the efficacy of the combined treatment.

Source: Department of Oriental Rehabilitation Medicine, College of Oriental Medicine, Wonkwang University, Iksan, South Korea. Center for Integrative Medicine, Institute of Medical Science, Wonkwang University, Iksan, South Korea. Authors: Byung-Cheul Shin, Chung-Hyo Ha, Yung-Sun Song and Myeong Soo Lee. Originally published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 35, No. 2, 203–208.