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Dry Needling for TMJ

Dry Needling for TMJ

Jaw pain resulting from TMJ disorder can affect your quality of life. Although there are several TMJ treatments, you may seek a natural and more conservative treatment. Dry needling is an excellent technique for addressing TMJ pain and restoring mobility.

However, because dry needling involves the use of thin needles in trigger points, you may hesitate to undergo the treatment. Fortunately, this article explores dry needling treatment for TMJ at Dynamic Physiotherapy, Okotoks, AB. We discuss the benefits and side effects of the treatment. You will also learn about the common myths of dry needling.

Let’s dive into it!

What is TMJ?

TMJ means temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jaw to your skull, allowing you to open and close your mouth and move your jaw from side to side. It also aids in chewing. 

A TMJ disorder can cause pain and problems with your jaw function. This disorder occurs when your TMJ is injured, inflamed, or misaligned. You may experience jaw pain, facial pain, or stiffness. Other symptoms of a TMJ disorder include jaw popping, headaches, and difficulty chewing.

The most common causes of TMJ disorder include trauma, arthritis, stress, teeth grinding, or bite problems. Usually, this disorder is a combination of factors. Your doctor will diagnose your condition by conducting tests and asking appropriate questions. 

Afterward, your doctor will prescribe treatment to address the underlying cause of TMJ disorder. These treatments include medication, splints, or surgery. Unfortunately, these treatments are not suitable for everyone. They also have side effects or complications. Many seek a natural, safe, and effective alternative, like dry needling.

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a treatment technique that involves inserting thin needles into trigger points. The treatment is called “dry” because it does not include injecting any liquid into your body. 

Trigger points can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced movement in your jaw. These trigger points are tight knots of muscle tissue in the muscles. During dry needling, your physiotherapist will use needles to stimulate these trigger points to relax your muscles.

It is important to note that dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine. This treatment focuses on balancing the flow of energy, or chi, in your body. 

On the other hand, dry needling is based on a modern and scientific understanding of anatomy and physiology. Physiotherapists and doctors use dry needling to treat musculoskeletal conditions. This treatment helps to relieve headaches or back, neck, or shoulder pain.

Benefits of Dry Needling for TMJ Disorders

Dry needling is a safe and effective treatment for TMJ disorders. This treatment can offer many benefits, including:

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is one of the leading causes of dysfunction in the TMJ. Dry needling can help reduce the inflammation and the pressure on the joint. During a dry needling session, your physiotherapist inserts needles into the trigger points around your jaw. This improves the blood flow and oxygen supply to the area.

Muscle Relaxation

Stress, injury, or overuse can make your TMJ dense or tight. This results in trigger points that can refer pain to other parts of your face, head, or neck. Stimulating the knots with needles can help relax the muscles and relieve the pain.

Restored Function

Tight or tense jaw muscles limit jaw alignment and range of motion. You may be unable to move your jaw or feel intense pain when you try moving it. Your physiotherapist can use dry needling to release the tight knots around your jaw and restore normal function. After a few dry needling sessions, you should be able to move your jaw properly and eat, talk, or smile.

Common Myths about Dry Needling for TMJ Disorders

Dry needling is effective for reducing pain and restoring function. However, there are some myths about this treatment technique. Common misconceptions about dry needling for TMJ include the following:

  • Dry needling is painful.

Dry needling is not painful. However, you may experience a slight discomfort during the treatment. Your physiotherapist will use thin and fine needles. These needles are often inserted quickly and precisely into your trigger points. 

When your physiotherapist inserts the needle, you may feel a slight pinch or a dull ache. This discomfort is normal and temporary. The treatment itself is relaxing and soothing. Most patients even fall asleep during a dry needling session.

  • Dry needling is dangerous.

Dry needling is safe when performed by a qualified and experienced professional. Your physiotherapist in Okotoks follows proper hygiene and aftercare methods to ensure a smooth, dry needling session. The needles used during the session are sterile, disposable, and discarded after each use.

Your physiotherapist will also clean your skin before and after the treatment to reduce the risk of inflammation or infection. They will also apply pressure or ice to the area if necessary.

  • Dry needling treats all conditions.

Dry needling does not solve all health problems. Although the treatment can help with TMJ pain, it does not substitute for other remedies. This technique is best used as a complementary treatment. Your doctor will prescribe getting a dry needling and other treatments or therapies.

In addition, dry needling does not resolve TMJ disorder at once. You will need multiple sessions to achieve the best results. You may also have to change your lifestyle for long-lasting effects. For instance, your doctor may prescribe a nighttime mouth guard. The mouth guard prevents you from grinding your teeth, especially when you sleep.

Dry Needling for TMJ Side Effects

Although dry needling is a conservative treatment, it has risks and side effects. Some of these side effects include;

Bleeding or Bruising

You may experience bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion site. Fortunately, this discomfort is usually mild and temporary. You can manage it by adding ice and pressure to the site.


Infection after a dry needling session is quite rare. Your physiotherapist in Okotoks will use sterile needles. They will also follow proper hygiene during the treatment and dispose of the needles afterward. 

If you experience symptoms of an infection after your treatment, it is important to get prompt treatment. Symptoms of an infection include fever, chills, fatigue, and headaches.


You may experience fatigue after your dry needling session. This is because the treatment involves the insertion of needles. These needles cause a minor injury, triggering your body’s healing response. This response can be energy-consuming, leading to fatigue.


Fainting during or after a dry needling session is uncommon. If you experience this side effect, it may be because you have a low pain threshold or you are receiving the treatment for the first time. You may also faint if you are anxious about the treatment.


Dry needling for TMJ can cause temporary muscle stiffness. This is because the needles stimulate your nerves and cause contractions and twitches. These contractions then lead to stiffness as the muscles recover after the treatment.

How Many Dry Needling For TMJ Sessions Do You Need?

Dry needling for TMJ pain may require multiple sessions at Okotoks Physiotherapy. The number of sessions you need for total relief depends on the cause and severity of your symptoms. You may feel relaxed and have improved function 24 hours after your first session. Nevertheless, your physiotherapist may recommend multiple sessions for maximum benefits.

Is dry needling for TMJ suitable for everyone?

Dry needling may not be safe for everyone. Before getting a session, discuss it with your doctor to see if you qualify. Dry needling is not suitable in the following cases;


It is not advisable to get dry needling for TMJ pregnancy. This treatment can affect the fetus. It can also induce labor or a miscarriage. It is best to inform your doctor about your pregnancy status before undergoing dry needling for TMJ.

Blood Disorders

Because dry needling involves the insertion of needles, there is an increased risk of bleeding or bruising. Therefore, this treatment is not suitable for people with blood disorders. Also, if you use blood thinners like warfarin and heparin, inform your doctor before getting dry needling.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions may disqualify you from getting a dry needling treatment. If you have a compromised immune system, diabetes, epilepsy, or vascular disease, dry needling may not suit you.

Always inform your doctor about your health condition and all medications you are using before commencing treatment.  


Trypanophobia is an extreme fear of needles. Dry needling for TMJ relief involves the use of needles. If you have a phobia for needles, inform your doctor before getting a dry needling treatment. Your doctor may recommend an alternative treatment that does not require needles.


Dry needling in Okotoks can provide relief for TMJ pain. However, this treatment is not a solution for all medical conditions. This treatment is especially suitable for relaxing the muscles, reducing inflammation, and restoring function.

In addition, only some qualify for this treatment. You can discuss this with your physiotherapist to determine if dry needling suits you. If you do not qualify, your physiotherapist in Okotoks may recommend an alternative treatment.

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