But I am happy that I do get to see some of your smiling faces in their entirety! Upon returning to work from my maternity leave I have been seeing a number of you that have been dealing with temporomandibular joint (TMJ), aka jaw joint, issues. So some of you have been getting to unmask for me (only if you feel comfortable to do so) so that we can work together to settle those jaws down.
Many of the TMJ issues that I am currently seeing are related to muscular tension in the current climate. Tension has long been a cause of TMJ issues related to stress in life that results in holding tension in muscles surrounding the jaw, and sometimes clenching and grinding. Mask use has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centre of Disease Control (CDC) as part of the strategy to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 (1, 2, 3). Muscular tension around the jaw occurs with and without the use of masks but, for those of us that are wearing masks more these days, we are noticing some added tension.
Here are a few tips that you can use if you are having jaw tension with more regular mask use:
- Ensure that your mask fits well. If a mask does not fit well it will not stay in place and you may find that you are opening your mouth and wiggling your jaw side to side frequently to keep it in place. Try to find a mask that allows it to be fitted over the nose or cheek bones through the contour of the mask or through a flexible wire.
- Breathe through your nose whenever possible. Breathing with your mouth open results in the muscles of your jaw having to work harder to maintain your mouth staying open for longer periods of time and they miss out on resting when your mouth is closed.
- If you are having issues with tension, try the following exercises: Controlled opening and self-release of masseter can be quite helpful in settling down tension. Some of you may have seen the video that I posted while I was on mat leave that addresses these key exercises that you can do to keep your jaw healthy:https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=BoFesGoRi98&feature=emb_logo
~ Kristyn Froc, Physiotherapist
- COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-mask/art-20485449. July 17, 2020.
- Q&A: Masks and Covid-19. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-masks. Accessed August 17, 2020.
- Considerations for Wearing Masks: Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html. Accessed August 17, 2020.