sleep bruxism

To complement the Research Reports in the March 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.


Researchers in Brazil found the use of an occlusal splint, combined with three 30-minute massage sessions per week focused on the masticatory muscles, led to a large reduction in pain among women diagnosed with sleep bruxism, a condition that involves clenching or grinding the teeth during sleep and is linked to prolonged temporomandibular dysfunction.

The study, “The effects of massage therapy and occlusal splint usage on quality of life and pain in individuals with sleep bruxism: a randomized controlled trial,” involved 78 women ages 18 to 40 with a diagnosis of sleep bruxism. These women were randomly assigned to one of four groups: massage therapy, occlusal splint, massage therapy and occlusal splint, or a control group.


Massage Therapy vs. Occlusal Splint Therapy for Sleep Bruxism

Those in the massage group received three 30-minute sessions of massage therapy each week for four weeks in a row. During these sessions, sliding and kneading techniques were applied to the masseter and temporal muscles.

In the occlusal splint group, the women were instructed to wear the splint while sleeping each night for four weeks in a row. The researchers described the splint as a “muscle-relaxing appliance that protects the teeth and diminishes the symptoms of bruxism.”

Women assigned to the combined massage therapy and occlusal splint group underwent both interventions. Those in the control group did not receive any intervention.


Effects on Pain, Quality of Life

The main outcomes measured in this study were quality of life and pain. The Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 was used to assess quality of life, and each subject completed this questionnaire both before and after the four-week intervention period.

Pain was measured on a 10-point scale ranging from 0 to 10, with 10 representing the worst possible pain. This assessment took place both before and after the four-week intervention period.

Results of the research revealed the use of an occlusal splint alone led to improvements in physical and emotional quality of life among subjects with sleep bruxism, whereas massage therapy alone led to a reduction in pain symptoms associated with sleep bruxism. However, the biggest reduction in pain occurred among the women who used an occlusal splint and received massage therapy.


About the Study’s Authors

Authors: Cid Andre Fidelis de Paula Gomes, Yasmin El-Hage, Ana Paula Amaral, Carolina Marciela Herpich, Fabiano Politti, Sandra Kalil-Bussadori, Tabajara de Oliveira Gonzalez and Daniela Aparecida Biasotto-Gonzalez.

Sources: Nove de Julho University, São Paulo, Brazil. Originally published online in 2015 in the Journal of the Japanese Physical Therapy Association, 18(1).