Holistic and Alternative Therapies for TMJ Disorders

Dealing with the pain and discomfort of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder can be a frustrating experience. Traditional treatments may not always provide long-term relief, leading many sufferers to seek out alternative and more holistic treatments for TMJ. But what are some of these alternative or holistic treatments, and how effective are they in managing TMJ symptoms?


As individuals increasingly turn to non-conventional treatments to alleviate TMJ symptoms, the efficacy and mechanisms behind these holistic therapies warrant closer examination, and we’re here to provide it.


From simple relaxation techniques, massages, and jaw exercises to modern techniques such as biofeedback, the realm of holistic care for TMJ disorders is both intriguing and multifaceted.


By uncovering the science and rationale underpinning these approaches, a deeper understanding of their potential role in managing TMJ disorders emerges, shedding light on a path less traveled in the quest for relief.


What is Temporomandibular Joint



Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, is a condition, or several similar conditions, that affects the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. This disorder can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joint, as well as difficulty with chewing, talking, and even opening and closing the mouth.


TMJ can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury to the jaw joint, teeth or jaw clenching, bruxism, arthritis, or even stress that causes tightening of the jaw muscles.


However, it is stress and anxiety that most often is found to be the true root cause of jaw clenching and the tension that can lead to jaw joint disorders.


The National Institute of Cranial and Dentofacial Research estimates that 6 to 12% of the adult U.S. population experience some level of TMJ or TMB effects regularly, either in the form of jaw soreness or worse symptoms like jaw pain or headaches. Millions more also regularly miss a day of work due to the symptoms of TMJ or the consequences of those symptoms, like a lack of sleep.


Although both sexes can get jaw disorders, they’re more common in women than in men, and especially in reproductive age, or 18 to 45-year-olds.


It’s an undertreated and possibly underdiagnosed disorder that needs more awareness from the general public, and your taking the time to read this post is an important step.


Common Symptoms of TMJ


Many individuals who experience temporomandibular joint disorder often exhibit a range of common symptoms that affect their jaw movement and overall oral health.


Among the symptoms are: 


    • Jaw pain or tenderness.
    • Difficulty chewing or biting.
    • Clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth.
    • Lock jaw (jaw joint is stuck.)
    • Headaches, often resembling migraines.
    • Ear pain or ringing in the ears (tinnitus.)
    • Pain in the shoulder and neck muscles.
    • Dizziness or vertigo.
    • Facial swelling.
    • Limited movement in the mouth or difficulty opening the mouth fully.

Not all TMJ patients will have symptoms, though, with almost 25% of people with jaw joint disorder likely to not experience any type of pain or normal functions, but it can still lead to long-term effects that can lead to serious consequences.


What Exactly Does “Holistic” Mean?


The term ‘holistic’ refers to an approach that considers the whole person, including their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When it comes to addressing issues related to the jaw joint and jaw muscles, holistic therapies focus on natural remedies and treatment options that look beyond just treating the immediate physical symptoms. Holistic approaches to TMJ disorders aim to treat the root cause of the issue by considering how different aspects of an individual’s life may be impacting their condition.


Benefits of Holistic Therapies for Jaw

Joint Dysfunction


Holistic therapies offer a comprehensive and integrative approach to addressing jaw joint dysfunction, focusing on the interconnected aspects of an individual’s well-being beyond just the physical symptoms.


When it comes to managing a joint disorder like TMJ, holistic therapies play a crucial role in providing treatment that considers both the mind and body.


One of the key benefits of holistic therapies is their ability to target the root causes of the issue rather than just masking the symptoms. In the case of jaw disorders, this can be stress and anxiety in your daily lives, as well as problematic behaviors, movements, postures, and other factors we might unconsciously have and require comprehensive treatment to overcome.


One study from Italy in 2011 found a 40% reduction in the need for drugs to treat neck and jaw pain in patients who were part of a program that included both postural exercises and relaxation techniques, further proving the importance of a holistic approach to this condition.


By incorporating modalities such as biofeedback therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and mindfulness practices, holistic treatments aim to reduce jaw pain and improve overall quality of life.


While not a complete replacement for more conventional treatments like muscle relaxants or bite guards, these holistic natural treatments not only alleviate discomfort but also promote relaxation, reduce stress levels, and enhance the body’s natural healing processes.


Embracing holistic therapies for TMJ disorders enables individuals to take an active role in their health and well-being, fostering a sense of empowerment and self-care.



Common Holistic Treatment Options for TMJ


When seeking holistic treatment options for TMJ, individuals often consider the following:


Massage Therapy or Manual Therapy


Two variants of physical therapy can be applied to treating TMJ, with one being massage therapy and the other manual therapy or osteopathy.


Massage therapy can help alleviate muscle tension and improve blood flow in the jaw area, offering pain relief and promoting relaxation.


On the other hand, manual therapy, also known as postural exercises or manual osteopathy, focuses on identifying and addressing musculoskeletal imbalances that may contribute to TMJ disorders. By using gentle manipulations and adjustments, a physical therapist manually aims to restore proper alignment and function to the jaw joint.


Both physical therapies offer non-invasive methods to address TMJ issues, providing individuals with natural options for managing their condition.


Jaw Exercises


Jaw exercises are highly effective, non-invasive, and holistic treatments for temporomandibular disorders. While similar to physical therapy sessions because they address musculoskeletal imbalances, these are meant to be done on your own time and without the help of a therapist.  


Jaw exercises, including gentle jaw stretches and strengthening exercises, can help improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the jaw joint, promoting better alignment and reducing discomfort. Both physical therapy and exercises can not only alleviate jaw disorder symptoms but also enhance overall well-being by addressing the root causes of the condition in a natural and holistic manner.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Relaxation Techniques

By incorporating relaxation or stress management techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, individuals can reduce stress and tension in the jaw area, which are often underlying causes of TMJ pain.


For example, research from 2015 in Denmark proved the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs to lower chronic pain and other similar conditions. In that trial, an 8-week course with 45 minutes of meditation each day had a positive impact on the patient’s pain management.


Yoga and Integrated Amrita Meditation


Yoga and integrated meditation techniques, such as the Integrated Amrita Meditation (IAM) method, have shown promising effectiveness in reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. These practices involve a combination of energizing yoga exercises, short breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, which work synergistically to calm the mind, relax the body, and restore balance. Research by Vandana et al.in India has demonstrated that the IAM technique is particularly effective in reducing stress, as evidenced by its positive impact on a group of students aged 18–21. Furthermore, the study found that the effectiveness of this technique continued to increase over time, with significant improvements observed after 2 months of follow-up and even more so after an 8-month follow-up.


Given the strong connection between stress and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, it is plausible to suggest that the regular practice of yoga and integrated meditation techniques could help alleviate symptoms of TMJ and potentially address some of the root causes associated with this condition. By reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation, these practices may help ease muscle tension in the jaw area, improve overall posture, and enhance mindfulness to prevent clenching or grinding of teeth – all of which are factors that can contribute to TMJ discomfort.


Switch to Anti-Inflammatory Diet


Adopting a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is a widely recognized holistic approach for managing TMJ disorders, emphasizing the importance of incorporating foods that can help reduce inflammation in the body.


Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon can aid in alleviating symptoms associated with TMD. These foods are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help decrease swelling and pain in the temporomandibular joint.


Additionally, avoiding processed foods, sugary snacks, and foods high in saturated fats is recommended, as they can contribute to inflammation.


Avoid Hard or Chewy Foods


You will also be required to avoid chewy foods or hard, large foods that put too much strain on your jaw muscles and joints.  Your healthcare provider will likely require you to stick to a diet of soft foods, soups, and supplements and use straws for drinking.


By making mindful choices in the foods we consume, individuals with TMJ disorders can potentially reduce discomfort and improve their overall jaw health.


Supplements for Reducing Stress and Pain


Stress and pain are common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), and certain mineral and vitamin supplements can help alleviate these symptoms.


    • Magnesium is often suggested for its muscle-relaxing properties, which can reduce tension and pain in the jaw area and reduce jaw clenching.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, have anti-inflammatory effects that may help decrease inflammation and discomfort in the jaw joint.
    • Vitamin B complex is also beneficial for stress reduction and nerve function, which can contribute to pain management.

Before starting any supplement regimen, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure safety and effectiveness in managing TMJ symptoms.



Herbal Remedies


Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to address various health conditions, including those related to jaw pain and inflammation. Common herbs like chamomile, turmeric, and ginger are known as anti-inflammatory herbs due to their properties, which can help alleviate TMJ symptoms.


Additionally, herbs such as valerian root or passionflower may aid in reducing stress and promoting relaxation, which can be beneficial for individuals with TMJ disorders.


When incorporating herbal remedies into your treatment plan, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider knowledgeable in herbal medicine to ensure safety and effectiveness in managing your TMJ condition.


Improve Sleep Hygiene


Poor sleep hygiene, such as irregular sleep schedules or sleeping in uncomfortable positions, can exacerbate TMJ symptoms by increasing muscle tension and affecting jaw movements during sleep, on top of deteriorating quality of life. To remedy this, individuals should create a relaxing bedtime routine, maintain consistent sleep and wake times, and ensure a comfortable sleeping environment.


These practices can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and alleviate TMJ pain associated with poor sleeping habits.


Heat and Cold Therapy


One effective approach to managing TMJ disorders holistically involves incorporating heat and cold therapy as common treatment options. Applying heat to the affected area can help relax muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce pain. This can be done by using a warm towel (compress) or taking a warm bath for about 15-20 minutes.


On the other hand, cold therapy can help numb the area, decrease inflammation, and alleviate pressure on the joint. This can be achieved by applying a cold pack wrapped in a cloth for short periods.


Alternating between that warm towel or ice pack can be beneficial in addressing TMJ issues and promoting relaxation in the jaw muscles.


Chiropractic Care


To complement the holistic management of TMJ disorders, Chiropractic treatment or care is a prominent alternative treatment option in the U.S. and other countries that focuses on realigning the jaw and addressing underlying musculoskeletal imbalances. Similar to manual therapy and osteopathy, chiropractors use hands-on adjustments to the spine and other parts of the body to improve alignment and relieve pain in the jaw joint.


By addressing the overall alignment of the body, chiropractic care aims to alleviate tension in the muscles and joints surrounding the temporomandibular joint.


This approach emphasizes the interconnectedness of the body and aims to enhance the person’s overall well-being.




A widely practiced holistic therapy for managing TMJ disorders, acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to help alleviate pain and restore balance to the temporomandibular joint.


Acupuncture is believed to work by stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities and promoting the flow of energy, known as Qi. By targeting specific acupuncture points related to jaw and muscle tension, individuals with TMJ disorders may experience reduced pain, improved jaw function, and overall relaxation.


This is, of course, a very alternative and complementary form of treating TMJ, but there are studies that have shown how acupuncture does indeed improve conditions such as migraine, neck pain, cancer-related pain, fibromyalgia, and many other conditions. How it achieves this is up for debate in the scientific and medical community.


Acupuncture sessions are typically personalized to address the individual’s unique symptoms and may be combined with other holistic approaches for comprehensive TMJ management. Many individuals find acupuncture to be a gentle and effective way to support their jaw health and well-being.



Biofeedback therapy



Biofeedback therapy is a mind-body technique that involves monitoring and providing real-time feedback on physiological processes such as muscle tension, heart rate, and temperature. This therapy is used to help individuals learn how to control their body’s responses to stress and pain through self-regulation. In the case of TMJ disorder, biofeedback therapy can be beneficial by teaching individuals to become more aware of and control the muscle tension in their jaw and face. By learning to relax these muscles, patients can reduce pain, improve jaw function, and manage stress-related symptoms associated with TMJ disorder.


Always Seek Professional Oral Health Opinion For Treating TMJ



We hope we’ve left you convinced about the need for a holistic, as in “whole” treatment for your TMJ,  as these therapies offer individuals with temporomandibular joint disorder a diverse range of potential benefits in managing their symptoms.


From acupuncture to herbal remedies, these non-conventional approaches can complement traditional medical interventions for a more comprehensive treatment plan.


Nonetheless, seeking a professional oral health opinion is still vital when considering any form of treatment options for TMJ disorders. A qualified oral health professional, such as a dentist or oral surgeon, can provide a comprehensive evaluation of your condition and recommend appropriate treatment strategies tailored to your specific needs. These professionals have the expertise and experience to accurately diagnose TMJ disorders, identify contributing factors, and develop an effective treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms.


By consulting with a professional oral health provider, you can ensure that you receive evidence-based care that is backed by scientific research and clinical expertise. They can offer a range of treatment options, including conservative approaches like physical therapy, splint therapy, and lifestyle modifications, as well as more advanced interventions such as dental procedures or surgeries if necessary.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can Holistic Therapies Alone Completely Cure TMJ Disorder, or Are They Typically Used in Combination With Traditional Medical Treatments?



Holistic therapies for TMJ disorders may offer significant relief for some individuals, but a comprehensive approach often combines these methods with traditional medical treatments for optimal results.


Collaborative care can address symptoms effectively and promote overall wellness.


How Long Does It Typically Take to See Results From Holistic Treatments for TMJ Disorder?



Typically, the timeline for observing results from holistic treatments for TMJ disorder varies among individuals due to factors like treatment type, severity of symptoms, and individual response. Your healthcare professional will be the only one able to give you a more concrete answer.


Are There Any Specific Exercises or Techniques That Can Be Done at Home to Complement Holistic Treatments for Tmj?



Incorporating specific exercises and techniques at home can complement holistic treatments for TMJ. Jaw exercises, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness practices may help alleviate symptoms and improve jaw function when used in conjunction with holistic therapies.

Skip to content