Sometimes you will hear outrageous claims for alternative medical practices. In many cases, these claims are completely frivolous, but in other cases, science is coming to understand that some practices, like acupuncture can actually be effective. The traditional Chinese practice of qigong (sometimes spelled chi kung) hasn’t been extensively evaluated, but it has potential for helping TMJ sufferers.
In traditional descriptions, the art of Qigong is designed to align the spirit, body, and breath. This is accomplished through a combination of specific postures, breathing exercises, and mental concentration. It has both vigorous forms and slow forms, including the most commonly used form in the United States, tai chi. It has roots in spiritualism and martial arts as well as medicine.
By balancing one’s qi (chi), it supposedly not only improves one’s energy, it helps maintain health and even cure some illnesses. Its intent is partly to unlock the body’s true potential.
Proven Effectiveness of Qigong
Unlike some forms of traditional Chinese medical practice, such as acupuncture, qigong hasn’t undergone extensive study. Although it hasn’t been specifically studied for its impact on TMJ, it has been tested for conditions related to TMJ, giving promising results. For example, a 2010 trial involving 80 tinnitus sufferers showed that, compared to a waiting list condition, people who practiced qigong during 10 sessions over five weeks saw significant improvement in their tinnitus, and that these results persisted for at least three months following treatment.
Comparing qigong to no treatment is one thing, but how does it compare to actual treatment? For neck pain, it seems to perform just as well as exercise therapy. Patients undergoing either exercise treatment or qigong had equivalent results after a year.
This makes sense, because qigong is essentially an exercise therapy combined with some mindfulness practices. Qigong might help improve TMJ symptoms by strengthening muscles, making you more aware of your body, and helping you relax. Consider it a potential home remedy that you can try for minor TMJ symptoms, but shouldn’t count on. If your jaw pain, headaches, and other problems persist, it’s important to seek professional help.