A study done in Brazil at the Dental College wanted to find out. In 68 people seen for TMJ problems, they evaluated the ability of acupuncture to help with the symptoms of TMJ, which are muscle pain(s) both around the jaw joint and at more distant places around the head and neck.
Acupuncture is recognized as a viable treatment for many pain syndromes as well as other conditions. It’s reported to be able to facilitate or inhibit the nervous system at various points around the body, which can alleviate pain, alter function of organs by the release of neurotransmitters.
The study found that acupuncture can decrease pain associated with TMJ problems in many patients. It doesn’t claim to “fix” the damaged/dysfunctional jaw joint but it can lessen the pain in the joint itself and the surrounding muscles.
More specifically it found the best results for actual joint pain was controlled with local point acupuncture for the TMJ. For the muscular pain triggered by TMJ problems, using distant points for acupuncture seemed better at pain relief.
When a TMJ becomes damaged (clicking, popping, headaches, ear pain, etc.) the surrounding muscles tighten. This contributes to pain and also increases the damage to the TMJ. Many patients are given mediations to suppress pain and are never treated for the cause of the pain; the dislocated jaw joint.
One of the challenges of my orthopedic approach to rehabilitation is the muscle spasms that are triggered when the joint is damaged (clicking, popping, grating sounds or limited movement). Acupuncture and physical therapy can decrease oral orthotic TMJ treatment times in patients with severe pain by decreasing the muscle spasms.
That allows the orthotics to rehabilitate the TMJ quicker and lessen treatment time.
 Branco C, Fonseca R, et al. Perceptions of signs and symptoms of TMD in females; Journal of Craniomandibular and Sleep Practice, V34, no 2, March 2016, pg. 118-123.