As we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, many have noticed increased jaw pain with mask wearing. We are seeing a rise in Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) cases due to many factors and it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect storm for the jaw. This may be due to the combination of the physical effects of mask wearing, the poor ergonomics of working from home and increased stress. TMD is closely linked to stress and people have certainly had their share of that in 2020.
Aside from stress and posture, forces from the mask can cause more pressure on the joint and so you may notice yourself frequently pushing your jaw forward into the mask. Masks push the jaw back and up into our head making the muscles that push your jaw forward and down work harder to fight the pressure. This can make them go into spasm.
3 Things You Can Do Now
At the end of the day there is no “best” option here, just understand the impact and try to limit the amount of mouth breathing you’re doing in these masks.
Try these 3 tips:
- Apply Ear Savers to more evenly distribute the forces of the mask straps around the head and neck.
- Relax the muscles of the jaw
One way to relax the jaw in a mask is to lightly place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. Rest it there then relax the muscles around the jaw and let the suction from the tongue hold it there. Now practice taking small controlled breathes through the nose. On each exhale consciously tell yourself to relax the muscles that cause you to clench.
- When your mask is off practice “Controlled Opening”
Place your tongue in the resting position as described above. Keep it there while you open and close the mouth as much as possible without letting the tongue leave the roof of the mouth. Doing this will limit the amount of opening and keeps you in a protected range of motion. If your muscles are tight you may even feel a stretch at the bottom of the range.
There are many things that can cause TMD. Many different things that can go wrong in the joint and so like any area of the body it’s best to get a thorough evaluation prior to beginning any treatment or exercise program. If you have been experiencing jaw pain or headaches, if you hear a clunking sound when you open or close your mouth, or if your jaw ever locks open or shut then you could benefit from physiotherapy.
Brett is a seasoned physical therapist with extensive manual therapy experience. He began his academic career at Hofstra University where he received his BBA in Marketing. He went on to complete his Doctorate in Physical Therapy with honors at Utica College.
He has a passion for research and has authored studies alongside top research scientists at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. He has published research in a variety of areas such as; falls prevention, ergonomic design, low back injury in personal care workers and shoulder injury in overhead athletes.
Brett is a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist and co-founder of ErgoSesh.com, a company revolutionizing the way people work by educating, empowering and guiding them to a safer work environment through fully customized remote ergonomic consultations.
He has completed a variety of post-graduate manual therapy courses and devoted much of his practice to evaluation, differential diagnosis and treatment of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), Headaches and Cervical Spine. He partners with dentists and orofacial pain specialists to develop an integrative plan of care to promote optimal outcomes.
Brett is an avid golfer and is raising identical twin girls and a dog with his wife Emily.
If you would like to work with Brett directly, you can book an appointment in his schedule online.