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7 Tips to avoid mask-related jaw pain + headaches

7 Tips to avoid mask-related jaw pain + headaches

Phone – check
Wallet – check
Keys – check
Mask… check!

Just as we thought we could say goodbye to 2020, 2021 and face masks, 2022 has begun and face masks look like they are here to stay.

With the introduction of mask wearing over the past two years, we’ve observed a correlation with the number of clients presenting to the clinic with jaw pain and tension. While wearing masks may not be the cause of all jaw pain, they significantly influence how we breathe, articulate our words, and the resting position of our jaw.

Typically jaw pain doesn’t just stop at the TMJ. Headaches are often experienced secondarily to jaw tension, with these being felt in the face as well as the sides and back of the head.

A common breathing adaptation when wearing a mask is to take shallow breaths through the mouth only. Doing this means that the jaw is somewhat extended or jutting-out, away from the normal resting position which can aggravate the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as the jaw.

A rapid, shortened breathing cycle when mask wearing can contribute to headaches as this pattern inefficiently engages our accessory breathing muscles (rather than the diaphragm), and therefore can also lead to increased tension around the neck and shoulders.

7 TIPS TO AVOID MASK-RELATED JAW PAIN + HEADACHES:

  1. Ensure your elastic ear loops fit perfectly (it’s not your jaw’s job to keep a hold of the mask).
  2. Keep up your water intake. It’s easy to forget to drink water whilst wearing a mask which can lead to dehydration and headaches.
  3. Stress and physical tension can lead to grinding (even in your sleep). Grinding  can lead to tightening of the muscles surrounding the joints which can in turn lead to pain and restriction. Consider putting strategies in place for stress management.
  4. Assess your working-from-home ergonomics as prolonged sitting and screen time can result in postural related neck and jaw tension.
  5. Assess the resting position of your jaw and tongue. Resting position of your tongue should be seated at the roof of your mouth. Imagine trying to say the word “Nice”. Where your tongue sits with the holding of the “N” is at optimal resting position.
  6. When wearing face masks, try to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth at a steady rate. This will encourage an efficient breathing pattern and help to avoid jaw, neck and shoulder tension.
  7. Soft tissue release to the muscles surrounding the jaw can help provide some short term relief from pain and tension. Here are some techniques to self-manage the tension in your jaw. Whilst doing these techniques, remember to focus on your deep breathing.
    • Facial release 1 (sinus): Using your index finger, gently apply pressure either side of your nose. Start with making small circular motions (3-4x), then swipe in an outwards motion along your cheekbone towards your ear. Repeat 3-5 times.
    • Facial release 2 (temple): Using 2-3 fingers, gently apply pressure to your temples and move in a circular motion. Continue massaging for 30 seconds.
    • Facial release 3 (sinus): Using your index finger, gently apply pressure to the base of your eyebrows (near the bridge of your nose). Swipe in an outwards motion along your eyebrow towards your ear. Repeat 3-5 times.

 

If your symptoms persist, we recommend booking in to see one of our K practitioners so that we can thoroughly assess, treat and provide you with the most specific management plan for you and your body.

Whether you have jaw discomfort and headaches from masks, neck tension, or general postural ergonomics, our team at Kinematics can help!

By Lisa Lentini
Osteopath | Kinematics Health + Performance (K1)

Book in an appointment with Lisa here.