Jaw pain and Headaches resulting from wearing Masks
Have you noticed that since starting to wear a mask you are holding your jaw differently?
Are you also breathing a lot differently too?
Managing your Breathing while wearing a Mask
A lot of people are finding they are needing to breathe differently to normal while wearing a mask – with the mouth open and shallow breaths. Doing this means that the jaw is somewhat extended or jutting-out, away from normal position which can aggravate the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) which we commonly refer to as the jaw. I noticed I had turned into a bit of a “mouth-breather” myself when I have been wearing a mask!
It is super important to realise that the masks shouldn’t affect the way you breathe – “In through the nose and out through the mouth at a steady rate, and repeat”.
Rapid, shallow breathing keeps the body in a high state of alert and engages the sympathetic nervous system, an adaptation that is useful in times of danger but counterproductive to feeling calm and relaxed the rest of the time. Breathing in through the nose helps us take fuller, deeper breaths, which can stimulate the parasympathetic nerves associated with calming the body and mind. A rapid, shortened breathing cycle uses the accessory breathing muscles, rather than the diaphragm which is our main muscle of respiration.
Photo Credit: Todays Parent
Given that most of us take approximately 20,000 breaths a day and breathing properly is critical to how well our bodies function, we should try to get the most benefit we can from this life-sustaining activity, with or without a mask.
Jaw pain associated with wearing a Mask
With everyone wearing masks as of late, we have noticed that there has been a correlation between wearing masks and jaw pain and headaches. As spoken about earlier, holding your mouth open when wearing a mask can lead to muscle imbalances in the neck and jaw.
These imbalances and restrictions in the neck and jaw can often lead to headaches. These are typically seen through the sides of the head and face.
Another byproduct of wearing a mask is that you may also find yourself consuming less water than normal, leaving you dehydrated by the end of the day. This can cause headaches and fatigue. A way of combating this is to set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to drink water, as it is something that can be easily forgotten.
A couple of exercises that you can try at home are self-massage through masseter and temporalis, some of the muscles of the TMJ, which can be great to decrease pain and tightness. Apply pressure using a couple of fingers in the areas shown in the picture below, especially if they feel tight or sore, and you can massage or even hold on those points whilst opening/closing the jaw to get a release. Try to perform 2-3 lots of 30 seconds each day.
Photo credit: Science Learn
Wearing a mask can make your jaw tight, especially if you are jutting your chin forward or tensing your jaw to try to hold your mask on. Stress also plays a big role in increasing muscle tension at the TMJ, as well as the whole body. We all know how stressful 2020 has been, so make sure you’re also managing your stress appropriately.
Be aware of your jaw when wearing a mask – It should be relaxed at rest, teeth not touching, tongue resting on the roof of the mouth. When wearing a mask try not to tense your jaw or push your jaw forward to hold your mask on – those elastics are designed to keep it on, so let them do their job!
If you are suffering from jaw pain and headaches, get in contact with the clinic today for a telehealth consult or face to face consult, to assist you with your complaint!
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Blog written by Dr Tom McKenna – Registered Osteopath.
Berwick Family Osteopathy & Spinal Clinic