Skip to main content
Dry Needling For Jaw Pain And TMD

Dry Needling For Jaw Pain And TMD

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint where your jaw attaches to the temple of the skull. It is a joint that allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side. This joint is essential for guiding movements required for chewing, swallowing, and speaking. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are conditions associated with dysfunction of the joint as well as the associated muscles.

The cause of TMD is still widely unknown. However, the majority of patients with TMD suffer from malpositioning of the TMJ disc, and muscle tightness in the jaw, face, and neck. TMD can present differently in every individual, so a clinical examination is recommended to customize a plan of care. One option for treating TMD is dry needling.

TMD Symptoms:

  • Pain in the face, jaw, neck, or near the ear
  • Clicking or popping with jaw opening (may or may not be painful)
  • Jaw locking or jaw getting stuck in an open or closed mouth position
  • Decreased mouth opening
  • Jaw deviation with mouth opening
  • Tired feeling in your face
  • Swelling on the side of the face

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment technique that uses a thin needle to treat underlying muscle trigger points or areas of tissue tenderness. This technique can be used to treat patients with musculoskeletal issues, including muscle tightness, that are associated with TMD.

How Can Dry Needling Help TMD?

Dry needling can help with the TMD symptoms when the pain’s primary source is muscular. With TMD, the masseter and pterygoid muscles (in the cheek) and the temporalis muscle (over the temple) are often tight. Many with jaw pain also have headache symptoms and neck pain. Dry needling muscles of the neck can help with these symptoms as well. It is common for those with jaw pain also to have neck issues. Proper treatment for TMD involves assessing the patient to determine where treatment is indicated.

Dry needling is one treatment option for TMD. Your physical therapist can perform a full assessment to determine if it is the right treatment option for you. Additionally, exercises and stretching are a part of a well-rounded treatment approach and may be determined by your physical therapist. If you are curious about dry needling for TMD, reach out to an Athletico physical therapist.

Schedule a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Gonzalez-Perez, L., Infante-Cossio, P., Granados-Nuñez, M., & Urresti-Lopez, F. (2015). Treatment of temporomandibular myofascial pain with deep dry needling. Medicina Oral, Patología Oral Y Cirugía Bucal, 17(5), e781-e785.
2. La Touche et al. (2010) Short term effects of dry needling of active myofascial triggerpoints in the masseter muscle in patients with temporomandibular disorder. Journal Orofacial Pain, 24(1): 106-12.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *