How to treat pain caused by wearing face mask for long periods of time

Why are we wearing the face covering?

In the very uncertain times of COVID pandemic, face mask are compulsory to wear by everyone to help reduce the spread of the virus. But what will happen when things normalise? Well, there are several occupations which will require to wear a face covering anyway. Some examples are nail technicians, carpenters, masons and other occupations involving work in a dusty, toxic and/or sterile environments. 

Does wearing a face mask affect the jaw?

This depends on the type of face covering you are wearing. Here, we will discuss the effect of a basic face mask. When the mask is on, it might make it very uncomfortable to breathe through the nose, as we normally do, hence, we are attempting to breathe through our mouth. Because there is a covering around the mouth, we are unable to inhale as much air as we would like with our mouth open just a little, so we open our mouth a bit more and push our jaw forward to increase the space for the air to be inhaled though. This places excessive stress on the main jaw muscles such as temporalis and masseter as well as front muscles of the neck.

On the other hand, wearing a face mask can reduce the effective use of the jaw while talking, making the muscles around it to stiffen up even further.

Can prolonged face mask wearing cause jaw pain?

If you are wearing a face mask for most of the day, 5-6 days per week, the chances of developing a jaw pain can be increased significantly because of changed jaw mechanics while breathing and talking. 

Your jaw might start feeling achy and stiff. You might also feel like your jaw is always under tension even if you lie down to bed and trying to relax.

Can prolonged face mask wearing cause tension type headaches?

Wearing a face mask often for long periods of time can result in development of tension type headaches. This usually happens because altered jaw mechanics results in muscles and fascia of the jaw tightening. Tight muscles and fascia can then translate to the neck and shoulder region and contribute to the development of a headache. Also, face mask strings constantly pulling on the back of the ears can irritate the nerve endings and place the surrounding fascia under more tension further contributing to the development of tension type headaches.

What treatment is available to help with mask induced tension type headaches and jaw pain?

There are several ways on how to manage tension type headaches and jaw related pain. One of which is manual therapy involving massage and joint articulation techniques applied on and around the affected areas. These techniques can be performed by qualified massage therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists and sports therapists. The goal is to relieve tension, promote circulation and improve function of the affected areas. 

Some gentle stretching and mobility exercises can also help to alleviate the symptoms.

We hope this information was useful for you. If you have any questions about it or about our treatments, please contact us.  We are only a 3 minute walk away from Angel Station.  We are always happy to help.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7159726/pdf/ANE-113-199.pdf

https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s12070-021-02621-w.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2173580816300360

 

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