To evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating symptoms associated with myofascial pain of the jaw muscles.
Twenty-eight subjects over the age of 18 and diagnosed with chronic myofascial pain of the jaw muscles were randomized to receive real (n = 16) or sham (n = 12) acupuncture. Prior to treatment, each subject clenched his or her teeth for 2 minutes. Acupuncture or sham acupuncture was then administered at the Hegu large intestine 4 (LI4) acupoint for 15 minutes. Real acupuncture was given by penetrating the needle through a sticky foam pad at the acupoint. Sham acupuncture was conducted by pricking the skin, without penetration, with a shortened, blunted acupuncture needle through a foam pad placed away from the acupoint. General head and neck pain ratings were obtained before and after treatment on a numerical rating scale. A mechanical pain stimulus on the masseter muscle was given before and after treatment and rated on a visual analog scale to measure pain tolerance level. Paired t tests were performed to detect significant changes in pain levels.
Subjects receiving real acupuncture experienced a significant reduction in jaw pain (P = .04), jaw/face tightness (P = .04), and neck pain (P = .04), and a significant increase in pain tolerance of the masseter muscle (P = .001). Subjects were not able to determine whether they received real or sham acupuncture (P = .69). No significant pain reductions were observed in the sham acupuncture group.
A single acupuncture session using one acupoint at Hegu large intestine 4 significantly reduced most myofascial pain endpoints when compared to sham acupuncture.
Keywords: acupuncture, analgesia, Hegu large intestine 4, myofascial pain, placebo, sham