CBD for TMJ: Is It Effective in Relaxing Jaw Muscles?

illustration of a woman experiencing temporomandibular joint pain
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: August 30, 2021

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint. It connects the jawbone to the skull and looks like a sliding hinge. Every person has two joints, each located on either side of the jaw.

You may have a TMJ disorder when you experience pain in your jaw joints and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Besides conventional treatments like OTC painkillers or creams, you can now benefit from the use of CBD for TMJ as well.

Unlike the conventional options, CBD offers natural relief from pain, relaxes the muscles, and reduces inflammation — without any life-threatening side effects such as liver toxicity or lethal overdose.

But before we elaborate on the use of CBD for TMJ, let’s get a better understanding of this condition.

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders?

A TMJ disorder can be diagnosed using simple symptom detection. You might have a TMJ disorder if you’re experiencing one of the following:

  • Aching pain in and around the ear
  • Grinding teeth
  • Pain in one or both TMJs
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing food
  • Pain and tenderness in the jaw
  • Aching facial pain
  • Locking of the joint, limiting its ability to open or close the mouth

TMJ disorders cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you chew food or even open your mouth; the intensity of movement limitation or pain associated with a TMJ disorder varies, but in most cases, you don’t need treatment for that condition. You can use simple relaxation techniques and lifestyle modification to overcome it.

Speaking of natural solutions, let’s take a look at how CBD can help TMJ disorders.

Will CBD Help TMJ?

CBD may help with TMJ disorders by addressing its major symptoms, such as pain, tenderness, and inflammation.

Here’s how each mechanism works.

CBD for TMJ Pain

In a 2020 study posted by the journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, the research team analyzed the effects of topical CBD’s administration on neuropathic pain. 29 participants with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy received CBD or a placebo.

Those who were administered CBD oil transdermally reported that their symptoms, such as intense pain, itching, and cold, were significantly reduced. None of the subjects experienced adverse effects during the trial.

Another study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology noted that CBD exerted actions that may effectively treat chronic inflammatory pain.

Peripheral neuropathy occurs as a result of damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. It commonly affects hands, feet, and other parts of the body.

A preliminary clinical trial from Clinical Rehabilitation tested the effects of CBD, THC, a blend of CBD and THC in a spray formulation, and a placebo on patients with intractable neurogenic symptoms.

The researchers found that the CBD and THC blend was better at easing pain than placebo and isolated cannabinoids. However, the authors reported that some patients experienced intoxication and low blood pressure after receiving the initial dose of THC.

CBD for TMJ Arthritis

Scientists have yet to understand the causes of TMD. However, some researchers point to arthritis as a risk factor for this disorder.

A study in the European Journal of Pain showed that topical CBD administration may be an effective treatment for inflammatory pain in a mice model of arthritis. The authors of the study also noted that the lowest and the highest doses of CBD per day were the most effective.

Another study from the journal Pain found that CBD had anti-inflammatory properties that mitigated osteoarthritis pain in patients.

These animal studies need to be translated into human models to test if a similar effect applies — which is likely to happen considering the similarity of the endocannabinoid system between all mammals.

CBD for Muscle Relaxation

One study examined the efficacy of a CBD treatment in TMJ disorders. It came out in 2019 and was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. The research team found that CBD had myorelaxant (muscle-relaxing) effects on temporomandibular joints.

60 patients with TMJ disorders participated in the study. The authors measured the activity of their jaw muscles on days 0 and 14 using electromyography.

Electromyography is a technique that helps measure electrical activity upon muscle stimulation.

The researchers concluded that CBD’s transdermal application decreased the jaw muscles’ activity and improved the condition of patients suffering from myofascial pain.

These muscles are known as masseter muscles and are involved in chewing and jaw clenching. Pain in this muscle type causes TMJ disorders.

How CBD Works to Alleviate the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

a man suffering from TMJ disorder while lying in bed

All mammals and vertebrae have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that maintains natural equilibrium in the body despite the impact of environmental factors.

Cannabinoids engage with cannabinoid receptors and help the ECS optimize its functioning. These cannabinoids may come from the body (endocannabinoids) or the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids). They can also be isolated in laboratories.

According to the study conducted on people with TMJ disorders, CBD’s painkilling effects might be related to its interaction with cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2).

However, the authors believe that CBD might be difficult to activate these receptors using regular routes of administration — hence the use of a transdermal product.

According to them, transdermal CBD avoids the first-pass metabolism in the liver, significantly improving the bioavailability of CBD. They noted that transdermal CBD application allows for consistent compound dosing at the targeted site for a longer period.

Transdermal use also reduces the intensity of side effects that could come from higher doses of CBD.

Can You Put CBD On Jaw?

CBD is available in several formats and formulations. However, according to the 2019 research, a transdermal patch may be the best way to treat TMJ disorders.

Alternatively, you can put CBD on the jaw using CBD patches and topicals like creams, balms, salves, ointments, and lotions. These products absorb through your skin to target CB2 receptors and produce anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. 

Some of the topical formulations may be infused with menthol, which may provide a more soothing sensation for people with TMJ-induced pain.

Can I Use CBD Oil Instead of Topicals for TMJ?

We wouldn’t consider this question as a matter of “this or that.” 

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

While CBD topicals are great for localized relief, they might not reach the root cause of the problem through that application method. If you want to support your ECS from within, you may want to purchase CBD oil as this works best for the job.

CBD oil is a golden liquid containing a full-spectrum hemp extract and a carrier oil (MCT oil or hemp seed oil) for improved bioavailability. You can take it under the tongue using a special dropper, which helps you measure out the desired amount.

Once there, you can hold CBD in your mouth for up to 60 seconds. Doing so will cause CBD to absorb through tiny capillaries in your mouth — resulting in higher bioavailability and faster onset.

You may also try an oral product such as CBD softgel or capsules and gummies. These formats contain a premeasured dose of CBD per serving, which makes dosing easier than with oils. However, since they need to pass through the digestive system, their effects are delayed and might not be as pronounced as with other methods. That’s because the first-pass metabolism in the liver causes CBD to lose some of its bioavailability.

Last but not least, you can use CBD vapes. This form of administration is the fastest and the most effective way to deliver CBD to your system, as it absorbs through lung tissues. As a result, the effects are noticeable within minutes after inhalation — let alone the highest bioavailability of all formats. The only drawback of vaping is that the effects are shorter-lived than with capsules and oils.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Take for TMJ?

There are no dosage charts with specific amounts of CBD for different types of TMJ disorders. That’s because the CBD market is unregulated, and the federal agencies see it as a health supplement. 

But, politics aside, figuring out the best dosage for your case of TMJ will require some trial and error. Observation is paramount, so start with a low dose like 5-10 mg and gradually increase the amount of CBD until you hit the point of optimal relief — both in terms of pain and muscle tension.

If you observe any side effects, such as lethargy, drowsiness, or irritation, lower the dose and give CBD more time to level your endocannabinoid deficiencies.

It’s a good idea to consult a doctor specializing in holistic medicine or cannabis use. A qualified physician will help you determine the right starting dosage and routine.

Summarizing the Use of  CBD for TMJ

TMJ disorders involve muscle tension and pain in the temporomandibular joint. The underlying causes of TMJ disorders are unknown, but researchers believe that arthritis, genetics, and jaw injury may contribute to the faster development of a TMJ disorder.

Conventional medications, such as muscle relaxants, NSAIDs, painkillers, and antidepressants, are sometimes prescribed for TMJ. However, these medications may have adverse effects on your health with long-term use.

CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated in humans. Studies found that humans can take 1,500 mg of CBD daily for a few weeks without any alarming side effects.

Research also suggests that CBD might help treat arthritis on top of easing the symptoms associated with TMJ disorders.

A full-spectrum CBD product with traces of THC might be more effective than isolate-based products for TMD treatment.

Among all CBD formats, transdermal and topical CBD is more recommended for TMJ pain. Still, if you’re looking for an all-around treatment, we recommend adding CBD oil to your daily supplementation plan.

Do you use CBD for TMJ pain? Which product type works best for you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

References:

  1. Xu, D. H., Cullen, B. D., Tang, M., & Fang, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 21(5), 390–402. https://doi.org/10.2174/1389201020666191202111534 (1
  2. Nitecka-Buchta, A., Nowak-Wachol, A., Wachol, K., Walczyńska-Dragon, K., Olczyk, P., Batoryna, O., Kempa, W., & Baron, S. (2019). Myorelaxant Effect of Transdermal Cannabidiol Application in Patients with TMD: A Randomized, Double-Blind Trial. Journal of clinical medicine, 8(11), 1886. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8111886 (2)

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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